Zita West has been a practicing midwife for the last 30 years. She is also an acupuncturist, a nutritional advisor and the author of 9 books on fertility, conception, IVF and nutrition. Her latest book, Eat Yourself Pregnant, was an Amazon Best Seller. Established in 2002, the Zita West Clinic has developed into the UK’s leading holistic natural fertility and IVF clinic.
Married to Rob and mother to their two children, Sophie and Jack, Zita more than qualifies as an inspiring mum! We caught up with her recently to find out more about her work and her thoughts on motherhood...
'A typical day at the clinic will involve me seeing clients, mainly couples, and coming up with a plan of action for each. Many of our clients have lost their way either because of repeated miscarriages or failed IVF cycles with other clinics. I work with them to develop a “Plan A” - to get pregnant naturally where possible or a “Plan B” - IVF.
The plans I and the other specialist fertility nurses at the clinic put together with them are produced after looking at 5 key areas - medical, lifestyle, nutrition, stress and emotional/psychological factors, all of which can impact on fertility.'
Zita grew up surrounded by her mother’s friends who were all nurses and midwives. Fascinated by every aspect of how a baby develops month by month and the whole journey through labour, a career in midwifery was an obvious choice.
'I became a midwife myself and then, after experiencing the positive effects of acupuncture after the birth of my son and a period of Post Natal depression, I decided to become a qualified acupuncturist. I looked at ways I could combine my midwifery and acupuncture to help women through all stages of pregnancy, particularly as pregnant women are reluctant to take drugs for some of the common ailments like morning sickness.
At the same time I developed an interest in nutrition and how micro-nutrients influence fertility and the progress of pregnancy. I found there were lots of women who were struggling to conceive who wanted a holistic rather than pure medicalised approach. I developed my practice to help them look at all the aspects of their lives that could impact on their fertility and pregnancy, offering acupuncture, nutrition, lifestyle assessments, counselling and stress management.'
When Zita first went into midwifery, having a baby was highly medicalised and for many of those involved with pregnant women, thoughts were limited to getting a baby through a pregnancy and delivered safely.
'I was keen to explore a deeper, more holistic approach to childbirth and extend that to preconception too. I learnt that really being with a person on every level – mind, body and spirit – is invaluable. This means listening to the woman, meeting her emotional needs, reassuring and guiding her and giving her the confidence that she can get pregnant in the first instance, carry a baby and, finally, give birth safely.
A key element of our approach is developing a tailored plan of action for every individual. No two couples are the same and so each requires a personalised plan that covers every aspect that can impact on their chances of successfully conceiving whether they are trying naturally or through IVF.'
Through her work with 1000’s of couples, it quickly became apparent to Zita that there was a need to help them boost their intake of some key nutrients that are important for fertility, pregnancy and post-natal support.
'There was nothing on the market that was specifically and exclusively focussed on each of the different stages of reproduction and providing the range of nutrients appropriate for each of those stages, including the different requirements of each trimester.
In order to work at their best, every cell in the body requires key nutrients and this is true of eggs and sperm. Due to our modern lifestyles and tendency for skipping meals, eating nutritionally deficient processed foods and not always being able to ensure a balanced diet, our cells may not be in optimum health. Likewise, stress can deplete essential nutrients and trying for a baby can be a stressful time, particularly when it is taking longer than expected.'
Zita developed a range of supplements to help couples bridge the gap between their nutritional requirements and their typical daily intake at each stage of reproduction - pre-conception, 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters and postnatal. More recently, she has introduced a Children’s multivitamin and multibiotic powder with Leonora Bamford, founder of MyBaba.com and mother of two.
'Research has indicated that there are certain key nutrient deficiencies in growing children, particularly between 1 and 4 years and we wanted to provide mothers with a simple way of increasing their child’s intake of a broad range of important vitamins as well as multibiotics. The supplement comes in powder form so is easily mixed with water and it has a delicious berry flavour so kids love it.'
Zita loves every aspect of her work, but receiving baby photos and seeing mothers and couples return with their babies brings her an awful lot of joy.
'Setting up our holistic IVF clinic has been a big challenge. It has been so stressful at times, but very successful 5 years on, so it is so much better now. I think we have all been overwhelmed by the success and how busy we have been.'
Speaking as a mother herself, Zita's main advice for expectant women is to really enjoy those early days at home with your baby.
'Don’t worry about everything that needs to be done at home. Don’t try to be like super mum, out and about after a few days. Really rest as much as you can - most women don’t!'
That sounds like very good advice! Find out more about the Zita West Fertility Clinic here.
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