Helping women to have miracle babies
Leigh Maxwell, herself a miracle baby, has set up a complementary clinic which tries to help women become pregnant. By Jane Bell
When complementary therapist Leigh Maxwell got the call announcing the first pregnancy among her pre-conceptual care clients, she was overjoyed.
"I was literally jumping around the room, as if it was my own news. I was so thrilled."
Since then, Leigh, who runs Newry-based Dharma Health, has tallied four pregnancies among seven clients in a matter of months.
The women who come to her for treatment may have what is termed 'unexplained infertility'.
Some may have had a previous successful pregnancy only to experience difficulties conceiving a second time. And yet others may have already gone down the IVF route without success.
With as many as one in three couples having problems conceiving, according to some studies, problems with fertility is an area that undoubtedly plays physical and emotional havoc with people's lives. Dharma Health ("the name comes from Indian Sanskrit for 'to do the best you possibly can in everything you do',") approaches this from a pre-conceptual care starting point.
"As society has evolved, many women are deciding to have children later in life," says Leigh who, at 34, has yet to start a family. "But when I do decide the time is right, I'll be taking my own advice!
"After the age of 35, the chances of conceiving are halved. About 30% of female infertility is due to failure to ovulate. Ovulation is controlled by the same finely orchestrated release of hormones that controls the menstrual cycle."
Hormone imbalance, a malfunctioning hypothalmus, a malfunctioning pituitary gland or irregular hormone levels in polycystic ovarian syndrome can be factors.
And, of course, it takes two to conceive. "Ideally, both partners should start to condition their bodies for optimum health at least four months immediately preceeding any attempt to conceive," she says. " It takes four months for an egg to mature and approximately four months for sperm to form.
"What we eat, drink and how we live our lives, before and after we conceive, determines the health of our children into adulthood. More and more people are interested in conscious conception and pregnancy.
"There is quite a demand for a more rounded approach to what is, for many, the most important experience of their lives. Obviously, I'm not going to be able to help everybody. But, here, those thinking of having a baby or experiencing fertility challenges can also find more holistic and natural approaches often neglected by mainstream health professionals. By working alongside orthodox medicine, the two complement each other brilliantly, giving the client the best and full range of treatments available."
Leigh's own start in life was truly extraordinary — a medical miracle. "My mother, having had both her ovaries removed, conceived me six to eight months after her operation, which started my fascination with the human body," she explains matter-of-factly.
As a teenager she gravitated towards the ancient knowledge of plants and their healing properties. "When I was 15 I followed instructions from a book to make an ointment using marigold flowers for treating sprains and strains. My brother used it on an injured ankle, it worked and I was immediately hooked on the medicinal wonder of plants."
Self-taught at that stage, though she felt she had found her niche, there was nowhere to go to learn more. Instead she followed a more conventional education route, ending up with a successful, though ultimately unsatisfying, career as a PA until she saw an opportunity to change career direction and follow her desire to heal.
She took six months out from her day job to work in a busy health shop in Lisburn, studied for a diploma course in holistic therapy part-time over three years at Newry Technical College and is a member of the Federation of Holistic Therapists.
"My ultimate aim was to learn enough to set up my own complementary clinic specialising in women's reproductive health. After four years of planning, researching and training, I launched Dharma Health last year and our reputation and client base is growing, often through word-of-mouth recommendation."
Treatments include aromatherapy, acupressure, lymphatic drainage, massage, naturopathy, nutritional therapy, reflexology and Western herbal medicine, using A Vogel products.
Conditions addressed range from endometriosis; to fibroids; irregular, heavy, painful or absent periods; pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS); the menopause; fatigue and stress.
To anyone inclined to dismiss the treatments as New Age, Leigh counters that they are ancient and long-tested.
"Herbal medicine works with your body to encourage self-healing and is an effective alternative to more orthodox medicine which may cause harmful side-effects."
Leigh believes such complementary therapies are becoming much more widely adopted alongside mainstream medicine. So who might benefit?
"Women who suffer each month; those preparing to get their bodies into tip-top condition for conceiving; professional women who have concentrated on their careers, delaying having children until their 30s and 40s; women heading for the menopause; new mothers and anyone who wishes to de-stress, detoxify and re-energise."
Dharma Health, based at Soul to Sole, Belfast Road, Newry, can be contacted on tel: 3083 3532 or mobile 0791 3562191. Sessions, generally two hours, cost £90