Fertility Health - Q&A with Jenna McDonald

Jenna McDonald - The Fertility Suite

In our previous blog post on Teri Popple's Motherhood Journey, Teri spoke glowingly about the support she received from Jenna of the Fertility Suite. Many women around the world face the same challenges but are still mostly under-informed about fertility and reproduction. We are fortunate to have Jenna contribute as a fertility expert to our blog and help demystify fertility health and overcome the taboo of the topic. Read on for the very insightful Q&A with Jenna.

 

How did you get into your profession of fertility and reproductive medicine and what are your biggest influences?

How did you get into your profession of fertility and reproductive medicine and what are your biggest influences?

I have always been interested in people and the way our bodies work. After high school, I studied a Bachelor of Physical Education then went on to study a Bachelor of Natural Health Science with a double major in acupuncture and herbal medicine. After graduation my goal was to work with athletes, supporting recovery and performance. I starting to develop a client case that reflected that, but then two key experiences changed my path. 

The first was having a high profile AFL player on the treatment table and I found myself thinking about a previous patient I'd seen that day who was trying to conceive. I realised that I was really invested in this woman and wanted to work out what else we could do. This AFL player on the other hand had everything he needed at his fingertips and if I was honest, I really didn't mind if he won or lost.

The switch really flicked though when I had two miscarriages while trying to conceive my second baby. I felt first-hand the loneliness and confusion and I just didn't have anyone to guide me or give me practical advice to support my body and heart. It was enough to drive me to enrol in a Masters Degree in Reproductive Medicine and start dreaming of what is now The Fertility Suite, a natural health space to support women in the depths of their fertility stories.  

In terms of influences, I have studied Jane Lyttleton's teaching extensively. She was the first practitioner I saw who really brought Traditional Chinese Medicine and contemporary medicine together in the fertility field. She is just so smart, and absolutely an inspiration.    

 

What's the best part about your job?

I love receiving birth announcements and baby spam. I'm sure people have no idea how much joy it brings me or how emotional I get when I receive their messages.  

On a smaller and less exceptional level, I just really appreciate that I have tools to support people physically and emotionally when they're going through what can be a challenging, traumatic and isolating time.    

 

What are the common misconceptions about fertility? 

There are a few I've come across. There is an idea that we can test 'fertility' with particular investigations. A good example of this is AMH testing - a test nicknamed 'The Eggtimer Test'. It's really concerning because it's just one tiny factor that isn't particularly relevant when taken out of context. A high-level reading can give some women a false sense of security, and a level considered 'low' can create real and often unnecessary anxiety. There are plenty of investigations, but no way to really tell how quickly you will become pregnant or need assistance of some sort until you start to try.  

The Fertility Suite 

Some top fertility tips?

Learn your body. Plenty of women use apps to tell them when they are fertile. Research has shown the algorithm used by apps to determine your ovulation gets it right about 21% of the time. There are tools you can use and signs and symptoms to help you understand what your cycle is doing. 

I also believe that preconception care is so important, we have the power to make generational changes with some of our decisions around nutrition, exercise, exposure to products and our day-to-day choices. It's a big responsibility, but aiming to live perfectly is just unattainable. Work out your non-negotiables. At The Fertility Suite, we say that 90% is 100%. 

 

What are some of the most common questions your patients ask?

Possibly the most commonly asked question is "why didn't anyone explain this to me?". I think there is a huge gap in our education when it comes to how fertility works.

  

What can people do to support women going through fertility challenges?

I LOVE this question. Firstly communication - just ask her if she wants you to bring it up, or if she wants to let you know if she needs to talk about it. Be patient and don't give up on her - there will be times she doesn't want to go out or she cancels plans last minute and no, she probably doesn't want to help you organise a baby shower. This isn't personal, it's self protection.  

The other piece of advice - if you know she's in a cesspit of fertility challenges, break the news of your own pregnancy via text message. She is happy for you, but sad for herself and a text message gives her the space to feel these conflicting emotions simultaneously. 

I guess fundamentally, fertility can be hard, we never know what someone else is going through. Just be kind.  

 

 

About Jenna  

Acupuncturist and herbalist Jenna McDonald (MRepMed, BHSc, BPhEd) is the founder of The Fertility Suite, a natural health care clinic for preconception and pregnancy care. She works with women and couples trying to conceive to make the experience easy, smoother and less lonely.   

 

💗 Noonie

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