On this episode, our special guest is Dr. Fiona Tassoni who is a Registered Doctor of Chinese Medicine Specializing in Fertility. Fiona is a Fertility Coach with a Master’s degree in Chinese Herbal Medicine, with 21 years of medical practice and over 32,000 hours of clinical experience. Fiona is also the founder of the Pregnancy Accelerator Program.
Dr. Fiona primarily focuses on women’s reproductive health conditions such as infertility (natural conception and IVF assisted), pregnancy, preparation for birth, labor and postnatal care. Fiona also works with an array of complex health disorders such as endometriosis, ovulatory disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) just to name a few.
In this episode we discuss Preconception care, preparation, egg and sperm quality and mental health. It's full of practical tips to help parents and those aspiring.
Connect with Dr. Fiona Tassoni:
This Episode is Sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academy https://skillsamurai.com.au/
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Speaker 2 (00:33):
Hello parents. And welcome to another episode of The Parenting in the Digital Age Podcast. Because there is no instruction book for being a great parent, we find experts from around the world to help us navigate all things parenting. And today I'm delighted to be joined by Dr. Fiona Tassoni, who is a registered doctor of Chinese medicine, specializing in fertility. Now, Fiona is a fertility coach with a master's degree in Chinese herbal medicine with 21 years of medical practice and over 32,000 hours of clinical experience. Fiona is also the founder of the Pregnancy Accelerator program, which I hope we touch on throughout our show today. Now, Fiona primarily focuses on women's reproductive health conditions such as infertility, pregnancy, preparation for birth, labor, and postnatal care. Dr. Fiona also works with an array of complex health disorders such as endometriosis, ovulatory disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Just to name a few, uh, Dr. Fiona, that was quite an intro. Thank you for joining us. Please share with our listeners in your own words what you do and what you are passionate about.
Speaker 3 (01:37):
Okay. Thank you. Thank you for the invitation. It's lovely to meet you, Jamie. Um, I am passionate about all things Chinese medicine. I'm passionate about hormones and con the concept of conception and co-creation. So it is, it, it lights me up. It excites me because it really is a medicine of balance and, um, I think we can all just relate to that regardless of whether you're trying to get pregnant or not.
Speaker 2 (02:03):
Yeah, definitely. Now, before the show, we were having a bit of a chat about, uh, and the question asked was, how did you come into Chinese medicine? Because I guess it's quite a special, uh, field, and I was quite fascinated, and I think our listeners would be fascinated. Would you mind sharing that story of how you got into Chinese medicine in the first place?
Speaker 3 (02:19):
Yes, of course. I was, uh, originally going to study law and I had traveled to the UK and I was, you know, traveling like most Australians do and doing the two years overseas work, travel experience. And, um, I was working for Norton Rose in London, and I had, um, a back injury that I'd had in Australia, you know, six years before that prior. And I tried acupuncture in London as a last resort. And normally when I was in Australia, I had my, my team of therapists that I would see chiros, physios, osteo, osteopaths. So I tried acupuncture as a last resort and it fixed my back and I had a posterior bulge. It was quite debilitating. So the fact that, um, the pain went after six years of, you know, um, chronic dull, aching pain, it was, uh, enough to, um, excite me and, and challenge me and just think, well, I wanna pursue this career in Chinese medicine. So I got into Chinese medicine through an experience of acupuncture.
Speaker 2 (03:25):
Yeah, fantastic. And, uh, said goodbye to law and changed your, uh, life and, and many women's and families' lives forever. So, uh, well done on that change.
Speaker 3 (03:33):
Yeah, it was amazing because I was, I was traveling and, uh, using the, um, litigation and working as a legal PE instead of working in a bar, you know, it earned more money. So it gave me the opportunity to work and travel. Um, but after having the acupuncture and I just thought, oh wow, send me the prospects to London. I'm going to study Chinese medicine. And I started, I applied actually while I was in London and, um, came back to Australia to pursue that career in Chinese medicine.
Speaker 2 (04:01):
Fantastic. Now, this is a really broad question, so bear with me on this one. So, why is preconception care so important and how can men and women prepare their bodies, uh, mentally, physically, emotionally for pregnancy or ivf?
Speaker 3 (04:14):
Well, I think, you know, it's important that people need to understand it's, you know, most of us need to, um, plan for pregnancy. You know, I think most people just make the decision, um, to have a child. But what they don't realize is that, you know, it's like a garden. You don't just go and lay seeds in the soil. First of all, you need to cleanse the soil, make sure you've got the right nutrients in the soil. So it's a bit like, you know, planting a garden. And it's like our bodies, like obviously, you know, we need to cleanse obvi. Most people are, you know, they need to do a bit of a detox, they need to do a fertility cleanse. You know, they need to look at how their body, um, if they're exercising, hydrating. And because that has such an impact, not only on, you know, your eggs to mature and develop, but also your sperm. It's, it needs to be replenished. And if it's not nutrient dense, then you can have issues with your morphology, your motility, or your egg quality. So that preconception, I usually say it, it's three months. Ideally I'd like six to 12 months. Yep. But, you know, in, just as a general rule of thumb, people really need to do that preconception care because we kind of need to do a bit of a cleanup and lay the soil.
Speaker 2 (05:29):
Yeah, definitely. And how about emotionally? Like, uh, you know, physically of course, you know, it's, uh, we can eat better, we can, uh, put the right nutrients into our body. We can hydrate, we can exercise and do those things. What about emotionally? Is there something that you recommend specifically to couples who might be looking to um, uh, fall pregnant?
Speaker 3 (05:47):
Well, a lot of the time people don't even address their psychological care. You know, we, we can have things in the closet that can be past trauma, there can be death and loss and bereavement. There, there can be all sorts of issues, um, that people, that couples have before they conceive. And if you haven't dealt with those things, and sometimes you don't even know, sometimes it can be even so contracts and past life stuff without getting too woo woo. But the reality is, um, a lot of people do have trauma and blocks emotionally. So I think it's really good to even just have some counseling, be it, um, couples counseling or even just see, uh, an acupuncturist where you can go through and just scan yourself and see what does my body need in this moment? Like, is, is there anything emotional or physical or spiritual that I need to actually deal with before I try to conceive?
Speaker 2 (06:44):
Yeah. And I think it's an important one cuz uh, it wasn't something I ever considered in having kids. And uh, um, you know, it's probably something that often gets neglected, that mental thing or that mental health coming into this, in that, that preconception care, as you mentioned. Now you mentioned also earlier about, uh, improving egg quality and, um, uh, I'm no doctor, but I'm assuming that's a really important part of this whole process. What are some of the ways that, uh, women can improve egg quality?
Speaker 3 (07:10):
Well, first of all, as I said, I think, you know, if you, if you break it down into steps, like I, I like to do a cleanse so that you make sure that your liver's working, you know, you're detoxified. So you can do a, an array of different things. You can take some herbs to detox, you can do some dry skin brushing. You can make sure that you're drinking lemon water with apple CI of vinegars, even some canine pepper first thing in the morning for your liver. Um, but then it's using, you know, diet and nutrition. So you're getting, as I said, getting the right nutrients for that egg quality health and taking an array of, um, supplements. Things like, you know, your prenatal, that's like number one, like the first two things I make sure is that people are taking a good prenatal with folate.
Speaker 3 (07:54):
Um, also your fish oils, which are really good for, you know, um, brain development and also for your own cognitive development. And then other supplements that you could consider, zinc, selenium, coq 10. These things are also important for sperm health to the zinc, selenium and coq 10. But then it's like looking at vitamins D, vitamin like the sunshine, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E. And sometimes you may even need to take D H E A, you know, as, as women tend to age, you know, the, the egg quality does decline. So sometimes we need to supplement with D H E A.
Speaker 2 (08:28):
So for the uninitiated or for me, uh, D H E A is what it's
Speaker 3 (08:32):
A hormone. Yeah. Okay. And when there's, you know, when as you age, we tend to be depleted. And especially when there's adrenal burnouts, we need to replenish those hormones. So yeah, it's one thing that can affect your egg quality if there is a depletion of D H E A.
Speaker 2 (08:48):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So in my, um, pre-show research, I learned something that it, it said here that there's been a 50%, uh, decline in sperm count over the past 60 years. So, uh, you know, over the year, what, what's happened in the last 60 years that's affected sperm so dramatically. Is it our lifestyle? Is it our food? Is it chemicals? Like what's, what's, what's made that impact? Cuz that sounds serious.
Speaker 3 (09:12):
It is serious. And that's not just with humans, it's across every, every kind of species. So it is something that we need. This is the big, I guess the, the big takeaway from today is that with this decline in sperm health as, um, is it's what scares me because I've seen that decline since I've started practicing. I particularly, you know, my perception is that it's, you know, the endocrine disrupting chemicals, it's your, the plastics that's in, in the water, there's the pesticides such as glyphosate. So we spray that on all our brains and things. And then it goes into our waterways. Now they've done some studies where they've picked up, um, plastics and, and apparently that, that the plastics can affect the development of, um, the reproductive organs in little boys. And it, it can really affect genetically their development. So it's a couple of things. So the environmental deflecting, um, chemicals, uh, we call them the EDCs and like fts and a BPAs. Um, you know, clearly you see the plastics in the waterways and we've gotta really sort of clean up those things, but also looking at spraying of pesticides. So, you know, most of us don't even realize that, you know, glyphosate is sprayed on most grains. And that's, and then we've seen a rise with the glyphosate in not only just diabetes, cancer, um, there's so many, you know, terminal diseases that come from just pesticides. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (10:44):
And, and is part of that answer, you know, shopping organic, uh, you know, like it is okay
Speaker 3 (10:50):
A hundred percent look, go definitely organic fruit and vegetables cuz you want to avoid chemical sprayed on these fruits and vegetables. And you know, you've probably heard of the Dirty dozen and the Clean 15, but you know, it's just like literally if, if you don't know what they are, but what you can do is just, if you're buying your fruit and veggies, just throw them in like some water, like clearly filtered water and some apple CI of vinegar. It just helps take away some of those chemicals off the fruits and vegetables and clearly going for organic grass fed animal fat. Um, you know, just looking at ways that you can reduce those heavy metals, even if it's like your cold water fish, you know?
Speaker 2 (11:32):
Yeah, yeah. Look that lot to unpack there. And there's some actually some good practical tips in there, you know, cause I'm guilty myself. Like I just walk into the local supermarket and I blindly pick up my fruit and veg and, you know, we go through stages in life where we make, uh, clean and organic a choice. And, you know, for me I'm guilty. You know, it hasn't been a, a whole, you know, life change. Um, so thank you for the reminder and uh, I'll definitely take some of that into account.
Speaker 3 (12:00):
Or even water. You know, our water is so contaminated with, you know, chlorine and fluoride and so it could even be just getting a good water filter. Yeah. And you, you can get some really cheap options, you know, even at Big W and some cheap, cheap outlets, but literally just a filter that takes out those things so you get, at least you're getting clean water. Cuz water is, is so important not only for equality, but if you look at sperm health and your sperm is, it's about 95 to 98% water. And I find that most couples that come to see me are actually really dehydrated. You know, they might say that they're having a liter of water, but when you unpack it, they're probably having a 600 mil glass of water, you know, and it's not enough.
Speaker 2 (12:43):
Yeah. No, it's not enough. Our bodies need a whole lot more than that. And, and again, some simple tips there like, you know, just making sure our filters are changed, making sure we've got a filter in the first place. Like it's kind of what I want. And it's not just for fertility and pregnancy, it's just for good health and longevity.
Speaker 3 (12:58):
Um, well it could even be like, uh, you know, not, um, drinking out of plastic bottles, going back to the old days. Remember when your grandmother, you're like, I dunno, when I was growing up, we used to get the milk in the glass bottles and I've just seen a resurgence of, you know, them, um, preparing the milk and glass bottle. So coming, even if you've got your water bottle, make sure it's a glass bottle. Um, drink out of straws that are not plastic. They've got those metal straws now. Um, but yeah, just a reverse osmosis filter if you can like take it to a whole other level. Yep. But yeah, like simple strategies, I'm very big on trying to just implement simple things that you can really do to improve your overall health. And that's just even breaking it down to your macro. It's like, are you having enough protein, carbs and fats? Cuz a lot of diets are so, you know, they're anti carbs or they're antifa or, and, and so, you know, when when we're looking at fertility, we need, we actually need carbs to ovulate. We need fats for your hormones and for that connectivity, for those neural networks. And uh, so, and just even fruits and vegetables, like I say to my couples, just look at a, a rainbow of color on your plate and are you getting enough?
Speaker 2 (14:13):
Yeah, yeah. I I I love how you've broken that down and, and it's, it's plain English. There's some really simple stuff there. Yeah. And back to your earlier point, you know, this, this comes back to don't just plan three months before you want a child or before you wanna fall pregnant, you know, start 12 months earlier. Start, just start now. Like, you know, whenever, uh, it, it's, um, the earlier the better as you say.
Speaker 3 (14:35):
Yeah. Because you want those embryos to stick. You wanna build a nice healthy lining and it takes time to nourish, nourish the blood. Like I find so many people have issues with blood sugar and you know, their gut isn't strong and so they've got dysbiosis, diarrhea, you know, like really basic stuff. You've gotta clean that stuff up because if you've got diarrhea or gut dysbiosis, it means that you're not even getting the, the nutrients and the phytonutrients from those macros and micronutrients you're putting in your body. So you wanna do the clean up first. So that's why the cleanse and the preconception is so important cuz we get to fix the problems, not just the physical problems, but if there are some things in the closet, like if there's intimacy issues or you know, you have abandonment issues, um, there's been rape or sexual abuse, there can be a lot to unpack and that's just, that's only the first three months. It might take you 12 months to unpack some of the emotional stuff.
Speaker 2 (15:32):
Yeah, yeah, very much. Um, so how do couples come to terms with fertility issues? What are some of the ways they can say deal with stress, uh, and the anxiety of repeated setbacks?
Speaker 3 (15:43):
Well, I'm a big fan of love and connection. Like I find that couples don't spend enough quality time together. I, I really like to impart the Five Languages of Love by Dr. Gar Chapman. He, he has the Five Languages of Love and it's about finding what each other's love language is, be it words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving, acts of service and, and just, and just tapping into them. And you know, I find communication, sometimes it can be nonverbal. You've gotta find out if, what is your partner's love language. If it is physical touch, it could be, um, let's have some more holding hands, melting hugs. If it's quality time, then it could be spending more time together in the garden or doing the things that your partner likes to do. So it's about increasing the communication but finding out what that love language is with each person. It'll be different and tuning into that. So it's really about, um, implementing love and connection. And then if there are issues, cuz there is a lot of detachment that comes with fertility stress that, you know, couples counseling can be a great door in or a tan getaway. Like there, there are different ways to approach love and connection.
Speaker 2 (16:56):
Yeah, yeah, very much so. And so, um, are there any questions that you know, I should look? Cause I'm, I'm not currently, let's say the target market, right? I'm not, I'm I'm a grandfather now, right. <laugh>, are there any questions that, uh, you know, I should be asking on the show or that would be relevant to, uh, families or, or couples looking to fall pregnant?
Speaker 3 (17:18):
Well, the first thing I think is about do do some tests like, you know, start with the basics. If you're doing a cleanse, then it's nice to just do, do some blood tests before you start the cleanse. So get a full blood examination, do a semen analysis if you're a male. So we know what your sperm parameters are. We wanna know what your morphology, your motility, your count and your concentration is. We want to know those things. And cuz if we can know them first of all before we start, then we can fix them in those three months. Cuz remember it takes those, it takes 70 days for the sperm cells for men to make new sperm cells. So often if you can do some testing, it could be a pelvic examination for women, it can be, um, you know, just having a, a full comprehensive blood and, and uh, a blood examination. So you get to understand what's improved over those 90 days and then retest. And then you can see the changes that you make when you implement some of these changes of, you know, more water, taking out sugars and you might take out gluten and improving with your macros and your micronutrients, but then retest and see the parameters change. And it's inspiring. It means that then your body is ready for pregnancy.
Speaker 2 (18:31):
Yeah, yeah. Extraordinary. And, and Dr. Fiona at the beginning of the show we talked about how you are the founder of the pregnancy accelerator program. Uh, share with us and our listeners, uh, what that is and um, maybe how they can reach out to you.
Speaker 3 (18:46):
Yeah, so the pregnancy accelerator program, it's a program, it's a three month program where I work with couples and sometimes I'll work with, um, surrogates. I work with a lot of different people cuz the, it's diff they're different each time each, each couple comes. It could be same sex couples. So I work with a lot of different, um, variations on the theme, but it's preparing people for pregnancy. So I work with people that may have obstacles, be it structural, you know, and I might support them through, um, surgery ablation. Uh, if they've got endometriosis, they dono myosis, uh, I fix their hormones. So we look at the periods cuz the period will tell us what's going on with you. And they could have clotting factors, they might have immune disorders. So in that cleanup, in that three months, we'll often prescribe Chinese herbs. And it's a package where we go into everything, the cleanse, the nutrition, the diet, the lifestyle, ways to improve your fertility naturally.
Speaker 3 (19:46):
And I, I take you through all those different steps, all the pillars, and we just nourish you, protect you, make sure we get all your, um, get your home healthier, you know, get your, your home care products safe for fertility. I get you into balancing your hormones with fertility charting. Um, and then look at personal self care. So ways that they can actually improve their fertility at home, like using castor or packs self fertility massage. And then I give them some strategies to reduce their stress through meditation and EFT tapping. So it's quite comprehensive and it does take three months. A lot of people do extend, so sometimes it might take them longer than three months to get pregnant. So a lot of the time I'll have couples extend to six months. Uh, it just depends on how long it takes 'em to get pregnant.
Speaker 2 (20:37):
Yeah, yeah. There's, uh, and, and there's so much you talked about even just in that, uh, breakdown and throughout the whole show, it's complex. There are so many factors and I, I guess what I'm hearing out of all that, it's important to have a plan and uh, to have something like the, uh, pregnancy accelerator program to support them through that journey and to make it simple, break it down, demystify a whole bunch of stuff, sounds like a common sense idea.
Speaker 3 (21:00):
And sometimes they've gotta navigate some really difficult choices, you know, about whether to, uh, give up or, you know, whether to, uh, have some donor eggs or, you know. And so I help them and support those, those deep questions and challenges that they're going through or navigate their relationship issues. And we strategize, we look at different things to improve love and connection between them. And, and it's, you know, it's this, it's so hard to describe it cuz there's every, every case is different. Like they'll all, yes, we'll, we'll take you through the five steps to improve your fertility naturally, but each case requires its own, uh, focus. And I, that's what I do as a coach has come in and give you the laser focus. You know, if you, if I, I also prescribe the Chinese herbs, so if we need to fix things, improve things, I can prescribe that. And also the nutritional supplements. But, uh, there's, there's a lot of layers to improving your fertility naturally.
Speaker 2 (22:03):
Yeah, most certainly. Um, bit of a light question, uh, as we start to wrap up the show. Uh, one question we ask all of our guests is if you could go back in time, the, uh, lovely little time machine, the DeLorean and give your 10 year old self one piece of advice, uh, what would that be for you?
Speaker 3 (22:22):
I would say embrace the power of silence. And because I, I'm miss chatty box and I've always been a talker, and I think that learning to listen is a really powerful thing. And, and, and it's, you know, my medicine has taught me to become a better listener, to pay attention to being what? To, to what's being said because it gives you so many clues into the pathology of the people. But also it's about, you know, when you, when you actually do listen, you can have more meaningful and fruitful connections. So, um, I guess that's what I would say to my little child. Embrace the power of silence and become an active listener. Pay attention to what being said, not, not what you wanna say, <laugh>,
Speaker 2 (23:09):
I think of my day just to say, you have two ears of one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
Speaker 3 (23:13):
It's, that's so true. That's so true.
Speaker 2 (23:16):
Yeah. Well done. Okay. So where can our listeners find you online? How can they connect with you?
Speaker 3 (23:20):
Yes. Well, I've got a Facebook group. It's called the Pregnancy Accelerator Group, and anybody can join that group and they can ask any question in the Facebook group. And I will answer that question. I'm also at, um, on Instagram, Dr dot Fiona, to Sony and the pregnancy accelerator.com.
Speaker 2 (23:38):
Fantastic. And I'll put all those in the show, show notes below. Uh, Dr. Fiona, thanks for your generosity. This was a, a, a wonderful chat today and I know something that'll help, uh, many, many couples out there. Uh, and, and, and we talked about this sort of being evergreen. One of the things I love about podcasts is that, you know, while someone may listen to it today or tomorrow, someone may pick this up in five years, three years from now. And I'm still discovering podcasts today, uh, that they might have been recorded three years ago, but they're completely new. It's all new information to me. So I love this medium that we're on. Thanks for your generosity and, uh, and bye for now. Thank
Speaker 4 (24:12):
Speaker 1 (24:15):
If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skills Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids Skills, samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit Skills samurai.com.au.