Could a donor egg angel be your answer to infertility?
Hope Whispers is an interview series that features experts from around the globe alongside regular women talking all things fertility. Hope Whispers aims to inspire and grow a community of women who learn and grow from each other's stories and struggles and the wisdom they find along the way. When you want to give up, Hope Whispers, try one more time. This week I interviewed Dr Miranda Myles about her work with women in the natural fertility and donor egg space.
Name: Dr Miranda Myles
Occupation: The Contemporary Conceptionist, passionate Naturopath and Acupuncturist who is dedicated to the world of fertility, IVF support, gynaecology, women’s and men’s hormonal health, children’s health and emotional/mental health.
What’s your favourite quote?
You are your own superpower – this means stepping inside yourself to find your strengths and I am a true believer in- “Your body achieves what your mind believes”.
What’s giving you the greatest joy right now?
Being a Mum to my two beautiful kids Matilda and Charlie but also connecting to women who are in working in this space and being able to share this journey with others.
What’s your favourite book and why?
My favourite book is called ‘Beautiful You’ – it’s written by my business mentor and inspiration Natalie Kringoudis. Like me, Nats focus is to educate women about their bodies – this book is a bible for Mums, Aunts, and sisters of younger women, for them to read and pass on to younger girls to learn about their bodies, hormones and their menstrual cycle.
Who are your biggest mentors?
Women in general are my biggest mentors. Those women who are fighting the “infertility’ fight – women who get through the struggle on a daily basis. The work we are doing is so important in this space.
How did you come to be working in the fertility space?
When I was studying I didn’t really enjoy working with women’s bits. As my business developed and grew, and I had my own fertility issues, it became a natural progression. I was intrigued by what women were going through because I was also going through something similar myself.
Having not used any hormonal contraception for 11 years, I started trying for a baby, with little success. I started reading and learning everything I could about periods, hormones and ovulation. I started charting my cycles (with pen and paper in those days), I knew my fertile peak and when I was ovulating, but still nothing happened. As I was going through that I was teaching myself about what my body. The more I learned, the more I realised how many women don’t understand their bodies, their hormones or their cycles. So it became a natural progression of my business, to help teach young ladies and women to understand their cycles
In your practice, what are the most common challenges women face when they come to see you and what is your advice to help them overcome this?
The most common fertility challenge women face is understanding their bodies, their cycles, particularly their fertile peak and ovulation. A fundamental flaw of our education is we were never taught it at school. Many women don’t know what a normal cycle is, when day one is, the difference between discharge and mucous, or how to tell when they’re ovulating. Commonly now women use ovulation or period tracking apps that apparently tells them when they are ovulating. There are very few apps that can do this with accuracy. Apps are based on algorithms and generalisations and don’t account for individual variations. Yet women will rely on these rather than understanding and trusting our bodies own signs. It can result in having sex at the wrong time!
During our teens and 20’s we do everything we can to avoid pregnancy. Many women start taking the OCP as young as 13 or 14, before their cycles have even had a chance to become established and regular.
Then our 30’s hit, we come off the pill and try everything to become pregnant. The OCP is designed to stop ovulation. After 15 years of hormonal contraceptive use, we can’t just expect our bodies to ovulate and menstruate normally. I am not necessarily saying don’t use the OCP, but understand the potential consequences and complications. This is part of the problem; young women are not educated or informed that this may create a fertility issue later.
My advice to all women is to learn about their cycle and I teach them that. That gives them back some sense of control over their own body and that leads into helping them with their intuition and to trust their whole body.
You talk a lot about the importance of achieving optimal physical and emotional health prior to conception – what are your top three tips for women in preparing for conception?
1. Know your cycle, know your body – good food and nutrition are the foundations of healthy, happy hormones and menstrual cycles
2. Three months of preconception care is absolutely imperative– it takes 100 days for an egg to mature. So what your cycle is doing now is a direct consequence of your health & lifestyle 3 months prior.
3. Face your fears and understand the enormous impact your emotional & mental health has on your fertility. Unhappiness, stress or dissatisfaction in work, relationship or life generally, is not going to be fixed by a baby. So many times women will say to me how unhappy they are at work, and a baby is their “way out”. This puts enormous
In preparing to conceive, we want to get you baby ready, body, mind and soul. We want to create a beautiful fertile ground, perfect for your baby. Remember though, it’s the baby’s choice as well- your baby chooses you and chooses when it’s ready to come. As we prepare, we also need to trust and practice patience as we await that little souls arrival.
How can women learn to intuitively listen to what their bodies need?
Sometimes you have to switch that mind off and feel what is happening. I think for a lot of women once they start the fertility journey, fear sets in. They see a fertility specialist and are told the statistical improbabilities of getting pregnant and women can get lost in that fear. It’s about shutting that down and turning internally and listening to what their body is saying. Trust your intuition- if it’s telling you to try something else, or do further investigations, or get another opinion, then do that. Using meditation and yoga to quieten the mind are important tools for women learning to listen more. And feel more. Be in touch and in tune.
What should women understand between the conventional medical approach v the holistic natural approach to getting pregnant?
The standard medical approach is couples needs to try for 12 months before they start investigating any issues. You then see a GP if it hasn’t worked and then you get a referral to a fertility specialist. Usually the recommendation is IVF. After three rounds of unsuccessful IVF, then investigations are conducted, for example a laparoscopy may be performed to investigate endometriosis. In my opinion it’s the wrong way around, the investigations should be done first to eliminate any complications right at the outset. Preconception care, understanding your cycle and body are imperative as part of your preparation to parenthood.
Male infertility also needs to be considered. Women are being offered invasive ART or IVF procedures without the male factor being considered- IVF may be treating women for a male problem. Sperm needs to be considered more seriously as the quality of sperm has rapidly declined. Sperm count, motility and morphology have all consistently declined since the 1950’s, with sperm count decreasing annually by 1.2% in western society since the 1970’s.
Even if you end up doing IVF, it doesn’t have to be exclusive of preconception care and nutritional & lifestyle support. It’s about making the IVF as successful as possible so you only need to do two rounds instead of 12!
What has been your greatest personal challenge and how did you overcome it?
My greatest personal challenge was I was getting women pregnant every single day, complicated cases of PCOS or endometriosis and I was getting them pregnant in my practice and I couldn’t do it for myself. That was my biggest challenge. The way I overcame it was to put my medical hat on- when I walked into the clinic I was Dr Miranda the naturopath & Acupuncturist. When I walked out, I was Miranda the woman so desperately wanting to be pregnant too. I was always delighted for these women as I was a small part of their success. There was joy and pleasure in that even though I had just got my period or had a failed IVF attempt. It was about understanding that what I was going through was my challenge and my story and what these women were going through was their challenge and their story and the two were unrelated. I learned you never know what someone else is going through and to always be gentle and mindful of that.
What are you working on right now?
Alongside maternity leave, I’m working on The Donor Project. In Australia it is very difficult to find an egg donor – there are so many hurdles and obstacles. For me at 41, it was a statistical and emotional decision to use donor eggs to create my family. Once I made that decision I actually had no idea on how to go about it. In Australia, particularly in Victoria, NSW and SA it’s very much dependant on you finding an egg donor angel. That means relying on family, friends, colleagues and in Australia you don’t get paid for donating an egg. Most of the main IVF clinics have a donor program but they are limited by egg numbers. The donors in Australia are not anonymous. If you are looking for an anonymous donation, it’s not possible. The donor has to be on the birth register. The child conceived from the donor egg has to be on the register. The reason they are doing that is to give donor children every possible chance to find their egg donor later in life. It also means that the donor can come and find your child as well.
The purpose of The Donor Project is three fold. Firstly to help women find their perfect egg donor angel. I work with an amazing team in Malaysia and we have both Caucasian and Asian donors. We help match women to their perfect donor. Secondly, The Donor Project is a 12-week program to help intending parents prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually to become parents. Thirdly, to flip the script and change the dialogue around donor eggs so people understand what it means. Every woman and man deserves the opportunity to be a Mum or a Dad and sometimes we need to take you outside the box to help create your beautiful, unique family.
Why is the Donor Project so important to you?
For me it was the only way I was going to be a Mum and I had no idea where to go and it wasn’t easy information to find. It just happened that I was working with two other women going through the same thing and I found out about egg donation through them- word of mouth. I have used three donors. If you can look past the DNA discussion and realise you’re going to be a Mum, then infertility doesn’t mean childless.
In fact research on epigenetics demonstrates how the carrying mum influences their donor child’s genetic activity during pregnancy and after birth.
There are little molecules called microRNA that are like chemical messengers. As the pregnant Mum, microRNA in the uterine fluid is acting as a chemical messenger that switches on or off the genes of the baby in utero. Practically speaking, this means the carrying mother’s DNA influences the way the baby develops. Her genetic material essentially helps to "decide" which of her baby's genes get turned on and off. Even more, it means the baby will acquire some DNA from the mother, even if the egg comes from another woman. No matter how she becomes pregnant, a woman performs an invaluable service by carrying the child. This new research suggests she also exerts a significant influence on her child's genetics, development, and lifelong health. Definitely your baby!
This means your child’s gene activity is influenced by the carrying mum, as well their experiences and environment including culture, diet, health, socio-economic status, disease exposure, psychological state and social factors like parenting.
What are three things you are grateful for in your life right now?
1. I’m grateful for my story. I hated it initially. I hated having ‘unexplained infertility’. Now I realise it’s given me the purpose to help other women navigate and create their fertility story. It’s not just women who have unexplained infertility but it’s the women who have gone through cancer or premature menopause and can’t have kids. Don’t they deserve to be a Mum – they didn’t ask to go through early menopause and they still deserve to be a Mum. I’m grateful for all of this and the opportunity for me to work with women in this area.
2. I’m grateful for my two children, my amazing women donors & my partner who came on this ride with me.
3. I’m grateful for my Dad, who is a GP, saying ‘infertility’ doesn’t exist – it helped me to dig deeper to understand what was going on and it gave me hope that they hadn’t figured out yet why I wasn’t pregnant.
All images thanks to Jessica Shepherd Photography