Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer on fertility & the menstrual cycle
In my acupuncture practice I work with a lot of women trying to conceive and am struck by how stressful this beautiful natural process can be. I love Sjanie’s work as it takes us right back to our own personal experience and reminds us that we are the expert on our own bodies and can do huge amounts ourselves to understand and enhance our fertility. I am very excited to have the chance to share Sjanie’s work here on Pukka Planet.
Sjanie is a published author and expert in the field of women’s health, fertility and spirituality. She developed the Fertile Body Method, a unique approach to working with fertility problems combining hypnosis and mind-body techniques. As co-founder of Red School her work has evolved to support women to embody the intelligence and power of their menstrual cycle as the foundation for women’s wellbeing at all levels.
Welcome to Pukka Planet Sjanie.
When a woman’s thoughts turn to becoming a mother what is the best preparation she can do to enhance her fertility?
Fertility is central to who you are as a woman, it is not only about having a child, it is a way of being for all women. Fertility is about being receptive and creating the time and space to make yourself available to hear your own inner wisdom.
When I started trying to conceive, the first place I went to was my monthly menstrual cycle. I set a clear intention to welcome in a child and become a mother and I started practicing cycle awareness and seeing it as a feed back system, a kind of inner guide to prepare me to become a mother.
Could you explain what you mean by practicing menstrual cycle awareness?
Menstrual cycle awareness is when you start to observe your mood, energy and thinking, and noting how they change throughout the cycle. As you do this throughout the months you notice the patterns that start to arise.
Many women have forgotten or have never been taught that they experience life through the filter or lens of their cycle. The different phases or ‘seasons‘ that we experience each month in our cycle colour all our senses and perception, how we think and feel. The cycle shows us how to listen to our needs, if we are not listening we get uncomfortable symptoms like PMT. The cycle teaches us to listen to the voice deep inside of us and respond to where we are and what we need at different points in the cycle.
When I wanted to conceive I wrote down my experiences each day, some days just a couple of words, and through this process I got all kinds of feedback about the parts of myself which weren’t ready, the fears about being a mother, relationship issues and health issues. It was incredibly illuminating and gave me lots to work with to help me be ready to conceive.
It is interesting that there is so much information nowadays about fertility but still not much encouragement for women to really understand their own unique menstrual cycle which is the crucial starting point for anyone trying to conceive.
Yes and thats why when things become stressful I encourage women to take a few months off from trying to get pregnant. Although this feels difficult, taking at least one month but ideally 2-3 months is so worth it – a time for them to re connect with themselves and get in touch with their cycle and learn what it is trying to tell them.
Many of us have already noticed the patterns that occur in us premenstrually as this is the time every month when our body gives us a lot of feedback on our suppressed subconscious thoughts and feelings. For example when I was premenstrual I would often feel absolutely overwhelmed, stressed and anxious about all the things I needed to do and I felt that no one was helping me.
When I noticed this strong pattern I took time out during my premenstrual phase to let these feelings rise in me without reacting to them. As I sat with these uncomfortable feelings it became clear that I felt deeply unsupported but wouldn’t trust anyone to support me. Feeling able to ask for help was something I really needed to sort out in order to become a mother and get through pregnancy, birth and being a new mum.
I notice with some of the women coming to my acupuncture clinic that when they have been trying to get pregnant for a while and it isn’t happening, it is very easy to become completely focused only on their fertile days and then whether or not they are pregnant that month. How can women avoid this stress inducing tunnel vision?
When we are anxious about conceiving and get stressed we can go into another gear and get into ‘doing‘ mode, trying to control things, to make things happen, to fill up the space. If we keep coming back to cycle awareness it helps us come back to ourselves and see our fears and anxieties as resources to understand and work with rather than something to manage and control.
You need each of the phases of the cycle to be fertile and support conception and new life. Our attention is a precious gift and we have limited amounts of it so we should use it carefully. If we just put all our focus on the ovulation phase of our cycle our cycle becomes thin and out of balance.
By really learning the patterns of each part of the cycle you begin to understand the powers and resources you have at each phase and that each phase of the cycle has its own richness.
Fertility is living each phase fully, ie resting and letting go a bit at menstruation and letting yourself feel your feelings which might be grief and tears that you are not pregnant that month. Allow the feelings to work through you and that will act as an anchor for the arrival of the new energies of the next phases of your cycle.
There is a huge amount of information out there about the best diet, lifestyle, supplement and exercise habits necessary to create optimal fertility. What do you recommend to women?
Of course there are basic things necessary for health such as the right diet, enough sleep and appropriate exercise. Strong symptoms causing problems in your menstrual cycle could be feedback that there is an aspect of your lifestyle that is not suiting you.
There are definitely optimum conditions for new life. If we take the analogy of a garden you need good soil with enough moisture, the right temperature and the best quality seed. So it is with the body. But we also know that when life wants to grow it will grow in all conditions such as in a parched dry desert, or a flower pushing through paving stones etc. When life wants to grow, it grows and there is a mystery about fertility which is much stronger than having the perfect conditions. We don’t need to be perfect. As you get to know your cycle you will understand the needs of your body and that will also mean which foods, supplements etc to take. You will get to know yourself so clearly it will be obvious what you need.
Do you have any advice for women embarking on fertility treatments such as IVF?
The problem with fertility nowadays is that there is so much information and people out there working with fertility that we can feel that someone else has all the answers about our body.
Whichever way you are going about the journey to becoming a mother, remember it is always about you. If you need to take medicine or do an IVF procedure it is really helpful to find anything you can do to make it personal. For example you can make a ritual to personalize and claim the process as yours. If you are injecting yourself or taking fertility medicine you can take a moment to remind yourself why you are doing it and to visualize the baby you would like and the family you want to create. You can use visualization to see the injection or medication as a positive and beautiful image like a radiant light going into your body to support you. Our minds are so powerful and can really positively affect our responses to drugs as well as keeping us connected to ourselves whilst taking them.
Of course it is really important to keep your partner connected to you and to the journey of conception so take time to be loving with each other. Don’t leave your own relationship out so conception just becomes a medical process. Instead keep putting into your relationship so it can all become a really positive experience.
How can we find out more about your work so we can really learn about ourselves at a deeper level through our cycles?
Alexandra Pope and I have set up a new online programme called Red School which all women are welcome to join. Red School has all sorts of information about working with your cycle. We are offering an online course on Menstrual Cycle Literacy which is free to join at the moment and there is another free course being offered soon called Hormone Harmony which is great for women trying to conceive as it contains a lot of very detailed information about fertility.
I am also involved with the online fertility community Blossom and Be which offers a mentor guided virtual support group for women trying to conceive and a wonderful supportive community looking at fertility from a holistic perspective.
Thank you so much Sjanie for talking to us at Pukka planet. We wish you all the best with your exciting new venture at Red School.
You can contact Sjanie and Red School using the links on the right.