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Preconception & Naturopathic Care with Jennifer Ward (#217)

Tahnee welcomes Naturopath Jennifer Ward on the show today. Jennifer specialises in women's health, particularly in preconception, pregnancy and postpartum care. The women share a beautiful conversation surrounding preconception, what it is, what it entails, the role diet, lifestyle and stress play in hormonal health and why both women and men need to share the load when it comes to fertility and conception.

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Today, Tahnee welcomes Naturopath Jennifer Ward onto the show. Jennifer specialises in women's health, particularly in preconception, pregnancy and postpartum care.

The women share a beautiful conversation surrounding preconception, what it is, what it entails, the role diet, lifestyle and stress play in hormonal health and why both women and men need to share the load when it comes to fertility and conception.

Throughout their chat, Tahnee and Jennifer explore the intricacies of preconception, delving into the many elements that are involved on the journey of preparing the body and psyche to carry and birth a child. 

Jennifer, through her extensive work within a holistic and clinical setting, emphases the importance of an individualised approach, one that involves simple, sustainable, daily health practices to create an environment in which the body feels safe to host a growing child.

Jennifer highlights that ideally fertility is engaged with as a daily practice, and not thought of as something that is only tended if and when a woman wants to become pregnant.

Offering practical advice on managing stress and tuning into the body's natural rhythms through simple acts such as getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, and practicing gratitude.

The women explore the nuanced balance between being informed and becoming overwhelmed by the plethora of information available on preconception care, and the often overlooked role that male partners play in the preconception process overall. With attention called to the fact that their health and stress levels also play a crucial role in a successful conception.

This episode is a reminder that the journey to motherhood and beyond is deeply personal, and that women, by taking the time to listen to their bodies and seek support from the modalities and practitioners that feel aligned with their innate and individual needs can make all the difference.

After all each woman is the oracle of her own living system. 

For those interested in learning more about Jennifer's work or seeking personalised support, find her at here, or via the links below. 


Black and white image of woman's face.

"Our hormones are our superpower and our hormones should be working with us, not against us. And by understanding them and perhaps doing a little bit of work to regulate them, we are at our best.

- Jennifer Ward.

Jennifer & Tahnee discuss:

  • Body literacy and the menstrual cycles.
  • The importance of preconception care for both women and men. 
  • How diet, lifestyle and stress influence fertility and hormonal health.
  • Embracing preconception as a long term daily practice.
  • The connection between diet culture and nutrient deficiencies in women. 

Who is Jennifer Ward?

The journey to becoming a mother is an exciting and often overwhelming time, Jennifer provides naturopathic support and guidance for women as they embark on navigating preconception care to adjusting to life as a mum. Jennifer has decade of clinical experience supporting women, is founder of Halsa Health a space for women’s health and hormones in Paddington NSW, has been featured in Women’s Day, I Quit Sugar, worked with Torren’s University and is currently studying a Masters in reproductive medicine. Jennifer is inspired by her patients who every day show up and make the changes to reach the goals they envision for their self, health and families. 

Resource guide

Guest Links
Jennifer's Website
Jennifer's Instagram
Jennifer's Facebook
Halsa Health Website
Halsa Health Instagram
Halsa Health Facebook

Mentioned In This Episode
Jennifer's Preparing The Body For Pregnancy Online Course

Related Podcasts
Nurturing All Phases of Birth with Nutritionist Tahlia Mynott (EP#138)

Connect With Us
SuperFeast Instagram
SuperFeast Facebook
SuperFeast TikTok

Check Out The Transcript Below:

Tahnee Taylor:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the SuperFeast Podcast. I'm here today with Jennifer Ward: from Hälsa Health. I'm really excited to have her here. We're speaking about preconception. She's a really accomplished naturopath. Are you currently undertaking a master's or you've completed your master's-

Jennifer Ward:

I am undertaking. I hope it never ends. I love it, every moment.

Tahnee Taylor:

I can't believe you just said that. A sucker for punishment. I saw that and I thought, "So many people don't realise what a deep dive a master's is." It's a real journey, right? Into one really niche area of study. So could you give us just a quick download versus just doing a bachelor of naturopathy, what it means to continue-

Jennifer Ward:

Absolutely. The study I did to become a naturopath was phenomenal. It actually surpassed my expectations on the intensity of the learning, and you come out of that really prepared. But when you start to niche into certain areas of interest, mine being preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum, then you do start to seek more niched information. And so I had the opportunity to do further general studies in naturopathy, but this master's arose with UNSW and it's specifically in reproductive medicine, which I obviously love, find so interesting, and so passionate about. And the amount of applicability every time I learn something new, I'm literally speaking with patients the next day about it. So it's so nice to be delving into something you're so passionate about. It isn't study anymore. It is like you have a mentor standing there next to you and teaching you.

And so the level of detail is great. And also the level of connectivity now that I have with the medical world really enhances not only my, but the patient's journey because sometimes it feels disconnected, it doesn't feel like integrative care. But when you have the knowledge of the medical system and the naturopathic system, it really ties together into something special that allows the patient to feel they do have a team around them that understands all aspects. So it's been phenomenal. I've got a year to go and as I said, I prefer it not finish. I just love the deep dives into topics and the amount of resources that I get from there that I can then share with my patients.

Tahnee Taylor:

So you said the word integrative there, which I feel like is thrown around a lot, but maybe people don't always kind of understand what that means. So could you, just from your perspective, give an example of how you see that play out in terms of the clients you're working with? And you mentioned this is a medical kind of master's. So what are you seeing kind of in clinic? How is that manifesting in terms of the people you're serving?

Jennifer Ward:

We actually used to be called alternative health, and then someone really smart came along and went, "Actually we're not alternative, we're integrative." And that is what we try to channel and possibly always have tried to channel. So integrative means that we are speaking with the other healthcare professionals if they are open to speaking with us, of course, sharing letters and updates so they're aware of the work that we're doing together, and also having an understanding as to what they're doing and openness and understanding so that when they talk about their experience with another medical practitioner, that you have that understanding and empathy and the ability to support them through that as opposed to saying, "Well, that's great, but I don't really want to be a part of that. I want you to do this." And then that creates opposing views on what the patient is trying to achieve.

So that integration is tenfold. You add two modalities together that work together and the patient gets so much more out of that journey, particularly when the practitioners are truly integrated and are talking and are finding solutions together, which is rare, but it does happen that you have those relationships in the medical world.

Tahnee Taylor:

And I think, like you said, it's almost like compounding, right? That it's not just like one plus one equals two. It's almost exponentially beneficial to the patient because I think one thing that we've all learned over the last several decades is the medical system has its amazing capacities and it also has its flaws. And similarly with naturopathy and things like TCM, which is more sort of where I'm educated. It's sort of these areas where it really shines and areas where sometimes people need other types of support. So are you mostly dealing with people in their preconception kind of phase of life? And if so, what are you seeing in terms of that?

Jennifer Ward:

I deal with women in all different stages. When someone comes to see me for preconception and perhaps their timeline is in the next 12 months or even the next six months, they are my ideal patients because they've left themselves enough time to fully and truly understand their body, to learn and feel empowered before they step into one of, if not, the biggest of life's transitions. And I don't think that women at the time of preconception or in their 20s, and you would know as being a mum, realise the transformation that occurs when you become a mum. But even pre that stage when you are trying to conceive, the transitions already starting.

So when I work with someone, say, they are best case scenario wanting to conceive in 12 months, we have the opportunity to educate them on their bodies, which is super empowering, to iron out any kinks that can hinder conception and to get them feeling good mentally and physically so that when it comes time to conceive, they are more likely to have better outcomes to enjoy themselves and feel in control. A lot of women don't have that in their journey unfortunately, and that really saddens me because it should be as best as possible enjoyable, and in our control, the sense of handing our body over to something external like a specialist or a treatment, be it IVF or medication. It's not what we envisage for ourself and it's not what makes us feel secure.

So allowing that woman to be in her body and in control through the journey does lead to them enjoying it more. So there's a lot we can and we'll go into in terms of what's involved in preconception, but that in and of itself is huge to be able to look back and go, "I enjoyed that I was in control."

Tahnee Taylor:

Are people conscious of preconception? Because I guess I know that's something you're passionate about and something you offer in terms of education, but I guess just thinking about myself and the people I know feel like in the last probably like five, six, seven years, there has been more of awareness around that there might be a requirement to sort of prepare the body to conceive, and not even that maybe you can't get pregnant, but just that it might be like, "There's a legacy of maybe hormonal imbalance." Or in my case, I was on the pill for a decade, so I was really conscious of, at that particular time in my life, cleaning my body and getting any kind of residual artificial hormones out of my body and those kinds of things. Again, very indicative of the time of life I was in. So I just want to plant that there that maybe that wasn't the best approach, but I was very much in that sort of catabolic breakdown, detox fast, cleanse, cleanse, stage of my life.

And I guess I just think I only really clocked onto preconception because of books like The Brighton Baby, and I don't know if you've seen that book, but it is overwhelming and it can kind of make you feel like you're really dirty and you can't have a baby. And I think it's one of those things that as I've gotten older, I'm like, "I just don't know how healthy that particular approach to preconception is." And at the same time, I do think we want to bring some awareness to the fact that it can make the pregnancy and postpartum journey a lot easier if we are prepared. So it's this really fine line to walk, and I know this is something you're passionate about. So can you speak a little bit to maybe mindset and intentionality and approach from your life?

Jennifer Ward:

Preconception is a scary word for a lot of women. Preconception means I am planning very soon to have a baby. And what I've noticed and what I experienced myself, is for most women, we have a switch where we go, "I don't want a baby. I don't want a baby, I don't want a baby, I don't want a baby. I want a baby and I want it right now." And it's this freedom that comes with, "No, I'm not at that stage of my life. I don't want a baby. I don't want to really be thinking about that. I don't want to be stressing about that." And then all of a sudden, the decision's made, and it comes with intensity. It's a stage where people say, "Yes, we will try to conceive perhaps next year, three months out." And I say, "Are you using protection?" And they say, "No." So I say, "Okay. You're actively trying to conceive now then. Well, not actively, but you're not using protection."

So it's like it's a protective thing for us that it's a hard concept for most to get around, "I don't want to deal with it and now I am going to deal with it and I really want it." So I try to reframe a little bit away from the word preconception. And it's a matter of even if you're in your early 20s and you're not planning to start a family for the next five years, it's just readying the body. And that doesn't have to be readying for specifically pregnancy, but it happens to put your body in that position where it is ready for pregnancy.

So it's learning about the body, it's learning about what are hormones and what is my menstrual cycle and why do I feel different in each stage and why do I notice different cervical mucus at different stages of my cycle? And it's that self-inquiry and self-knowledge that our hormones are our superpower and our hormones should be working with us, not against us. And by understanding them and perhaps doing a little bit of work to regulate them, we are at our best. And that's not just reproductive hormones, that is our stress hormones and our thyroid hormones because we are often walking around not feeling our best and not knowing why, and often it's hormones. There might be a small adjustment in our thyroid hormones that leave us feeling sluggish, maybe a bit depressed, maybe we have a bit of weight on, we don't know about it.

So preparing the body and understanding the body is much the same as preconception care. It just depends on the individual and what works best for them mentally. How do I want to view this? And I often joke and call it pre-preconception because it's that time before women get really serious. That kind of preconception window is more classically and medically known as that three months before conception where we take our folate, we take our iodine, we do some bloods, we check for STIs, and that kind of more formal path, but really it doesn't have that timeframe. It can start whenever we want it to start. And extending that to say, for example, 12 months can be such a beautiful journey of learning and self-awareness and even intuition building for that woman to come to that place and time of wanting to conceive and feeling really good about it and really confident about it.

Tahnee Taylor:

Yeah, because three months seems like a very short amount... For me, if I'm talking to someone and they're looking to shift something hormonally, I'm going to give them three months minimum of just like, "That's how long it might take to even shift your hormones." So thinking about that being a window for preconception doesn't seem like enough. It is just totally my perspective and I'm happy for you to argue me down. But it doesn't really seem like enough time to think about things like mineral stores and iodine stores, and I know we can shift these things quite quickly, but I guess there's something I looked at, myself was like, "I wanted a year of rebuilding after my catabolic breakdown stage," and I think I'm getting my catabolic and anabolic back to [inaudible 00:14:13]. But anyway, I'm just having a moment. My baby brain is kicking in.

But after my big cleansing, I really wanted to think about a year of rebuilding and I love I got pregnant right [inaudible 00:14:23] that year starting. So I did not get that time, but something I think about as a bare minimum. I just think there's a lot of depletion. What we see so much is just stress eating away at women's bodies, and then there's cultural stuff around not nourishing ourselves properly, and the legacy of kind of low fat diets and low mineral diets for women especially-

Jennifer Ward:

Yeah, and I get it.

Tahnee Taylor:

Is that something you see showing up?

Jennifer Ward:

To answer the question, it really depends on who you're speaking with, and this just highlights how individual we all are. So if you've got a 20 something year old, really healthy, really educated on her body type of woman, she might only need the three months. Absolutely. It might just be a matter of repleting a couple of nutrients, making a couple of adjustments to the diet, and that's it. Whereas and more commonly, the women that perhaps are 35 plus that may have some underlying hormonal issues and perhaps don't have that level of education of their cycles and body awareness and intuition, they do need a little bit more time. And they're the women that I see end up in the trap of doing all this work after they decide to conceive. And that's so fine. They're still learning about their body, but it adds a layer of stress when you are doing all this great work when you're also wanting to conceive because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves mentally of why is my body failing me and why am I not falling pregnant?

And so it isn't as enjoyable as if we flip that around and do this preconception work first. We feel empowered, we feel strong, we feel good about it. We don't all get that luxury of time, but a lot of women can and just haven't quite seen that they can do this beforehand. For example, I've got a patient at the moment and she's nearing 40 and she's just met the love of her life and they want to start trying ASAP, right? And so those situations is beautiful. You [inaudible 00:16:52] and have the partner there, and that may not work for you. So I'm not talking generally, I'm talking for those where you want kids one day, maybe you've got a partner, maybe you're in your late 20s, early 30s it's kind of on the horizon, it's beautiful time to just start thinking about, as I said before, balancing and preparing the body and just checking in and seeing where it's at and if it is ready.

Tahnee Taylor:

Yeah, because I'm really hearing you speak about body literacy at the end of the day, and I think just a very general observation that a lot of the sort of younger women I'm aware of, I think 26 and under-ish, seem to have grown up with a bit more awareness of menstrual cycles. I often will hear them say to me, "I'm day one or I'm day 28," and I'm like, "Wow". I think I was just coming to that awareness in my late 20s getting off the pill kind of probably around that age, but certainly not growing up with it. And I love that for them. And my daughter, well, she's nearly seven, but we're already saying she's seven, she knows about periods, knows about cycles, knows about her vulva. She's so much more body literate than I remember being I think even into my teens and 20s.

And I think there's this great sort of shifting consciousness in the younger women, but I do find a lot of the women we speak to that are around menopause and, I'm 38, around the sort of mid-30s to early 40s, there does seem to be still that cultural disconnect from the body. And again, this is a broad generalisation, I know it's not true for everyone, but I feel like that really rears its head when we come to these rites of passage like motherhood and menopause where I think it's suddenly like you're having to learn not only about pregnancy, but also just about your cycle and when can you get pregnant. And it's just these really kind of, and I mean this in a non-facetious way, really basic things that we weren't educated about when sex ed was like 80s videos of sperm in swimming caps and stuff. I don't know-

Jennifer Ward: 

I couldn't agree with everything you're saying more, and these beautiful young women coming through with such body literacy, I just love it. I'm 37, so similar age to you. We don't have that for the previous generations. And it was almost like we weren't told it to, I don't know, stop us from going out and having too much sex or something, "No, the less information is better. It's all bad, it's all evil." And that knowledge actually is empowering and enables the woman to take more control of their body. So I love the way that that movement's going and there's so many great educators even on Instagram and online who are teaching about this stuff. So it really does depend on where you're at in your journey. And yes, absolutely, some of these younger women are really well versed, but the beauty of those that aren't is that it's so life-changing when you learn about this stuff and you learn about fertile windows and when you can fall pregnant and how you can tell through your body not just an app, trusting your body, trusting it to tell you where it is at.

And that type of knowledge is what I teach because that takes the stress out of it and that puts us back in the driving seat. Anything that takes us away from that, these external apps and great fantastic specialists and anything that can assist us, if that takes over the control, we feel really quite isolated and unempowered. So absolutely, we can use all that stuff, but it's about making sure we're still in the driving seat by knowing our body, knowing what they're doing, knowing what is happening around us, which is something we can learn pretty quickly and pretty easily. It's just doing a little bit of work within that space of preparing the body, preparing the mind, and understanding what's going on particularly medically, if that's the systems that we're using for the journey or need to use for the journey as well.

So it does, and it just goes to show how individual health is. We just meet people where they're at and we assist them from that point onwards. So there's a lot of different aspects of preconception care that we can talk to women about and couples about, and that can be certainly nutrition, which everyone will often go to straight up, which is great, movement, self-care, antioxidants, supplements, testing, and really with that lens of inspiring, not stressing because it can be stressful stuff if we take it all on too forcefully, I suppose is the best way to put it. So empowering, educating, having that information there. And then when it comes time to start conceiving, you're in the best position to be able to stay in control, enjoy, and improve outcomes for your journey.

Tahnee Taylor:

So there's two little things I want... You said partners, which I really want to come back to in a second. I'm going to bookmark that. But you also mentioned, I think just coming back to this piece on body literacy, because I think, so again, I'm going to sort of pull it through my own experience, but I was on the pill for a long time, raised through university biology, being told by lecturers, "Women don't need to bleed. Be on the pill, it's better for your health. You won't get breast cancer," all this kind of stuff. Jesus, I've come a long way. I basically did 10 years basically cycling the pill without having any breakthrough bleeding. I just was told not to. It was a great thing, I didn't have to bleed. And then coming to a point of stopping two years with no cycle, starting to ovulate again, and slowly starting to bleed again. And that's what sort of took me into TCM because that was the thing that really...

I had what TCM would call blood stagnation. So my blood was so used to not flowing that it got stuck and it eventually did start to move again. And now having, I would say, the most pleasant periods ever, I never get PMS. It's just such a lovely experience bleeding. So I've come a long way in those sort of 12 years or so of that. But I guess one thing that I found really tricky at the beginning was looking into fertility planning because when you were talking about protection before and contraception, and I think it's such a tricky thing for people in long-term relationships. Certainly my experience, condoms feel very not connected when [inaudible 00:24:04] especially in a long-term relationship with someone. And I think the pills for me just to hard no... There just doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground there.

And then there's things like the fertility planning, which my husband and I use that, but I feel like the barrier to entry to that is quite high in terms of getting your head around temperatures. And I can see why the apps are so popular because I feel like just popping in your cycle seems like you are tracking something, but like you said, they're not super accurate. They're actually not taking your temperature, they're not checking your cervical because there's no real individual. I mean, some of them might. So I just want to put that there. I don't actually know for sure. In terms of if you've got someone coming in who is like, "I have no idea. I've just come off the pill. I want to have a baby." How are you getting them connected to their body? How are you teaching them to start?

Jennifer Ward: 

Absolutely. That's so common. I hear that all the time. And medically, there's a very short span of time that a GP or specialist will tell a woman to come off the pill before starting to try, and it's not leaving much room to understand, Well what's our body going to do? And is it going to resume its cycle per normal? Which very well may happen, but maybe it won't. And what's that woman's history? Did they have regular cycles beforehand? Because if not, they may not once they get off the pill. So that little bit of extended inquiry into their past history, perhaps their mother's past history when they started it, can help for a woman to navigate their own individual path. So if there is any kind of history there, perhaps getting off the pill six months beforehand or 12 months beforehand would be better for them. And that does leave that issue of conception.

But a little bit of learning about fertility awareness, there's actually a fertility awareness method, can give a woman, say, within 10 minutes, a woman can learn about 80% of what they need to be able to naturally manage their cycle. So it's about understanding the different phases of the cycle, the fertile window, how we can track ovulation. And there are some good apps like Natural Cycles and for those that are more intent on conceiving Mirror, which do take into consideration temperature and cervical mucus changes and even hormones with some of the greater technology like Mira. So that kind of next level of understanding, I often recommend that be discussed with a practitioner who is aware of the fertility awareness method and is well-versed in all of that because that last kind of 10, 20% of knowledge can be the most confusing. So most women can get across everything else pretty quickly and that can already give them such great knowledge and empowerment in their own situations.

And generally, it is a matter of understanding, viewing the cycle for three months, understanding and feeling into when perhaps ovulation is or isn't occurring. And then from there, seeing some trends form, and therefore knowing when to and when not to have sex. And also then having an understanding in the future when wanting to conceive, when is the best time of the month. Medically, it is often told every other day, which is absolutely fine. If you have sex every other day, the likelihood of you falling pregnant is quite high. But when we get that greater understanding of this actual fertile window and the days in which we can fall pregnant versus can't fall pregnant, then we have perhaps a better understanding if A, we actually had sex that month at the right time. Because having sex every other day isn't always what people want to do if they've got other kids and pending their own relationship. And then better understanding that window and then better understanding if ovulation's occurring and just, again, being more intuitively connected with the body, body literacy, and what we've been talking about.

So that journey of coming off the pill toward conception, I would say ideally you get that three to six months to reconnect in with yourself, your hormones, ovulation, understand what's going on. And then with that knowledge, understand, "I think I'm pretty ready to go and start trying," or, "Actually maybe I need a little bit more help because my cycles are long or I can't predict that ovulation is occurring." If we don't have that point of inquiry there, women come off the pill, they just start trying, perhaps six months has passed, and maybe they didn't ovulate. And for some couples or women, that can feel like a little bit of wasted time, "I've been trying, and I wasn't even ovulating, and I didn't know, and no one told me."

So having that little bit of knowledge around the cycle and ovulation and fertility window can allow us to be in that driving seat and going, "You know what? I know my body and I know that last month I did or I didn't ovulate." So again, coming back to why we prepare the body, it improves outcomes. If we know we're ovulating, then we're more likely to fall pregnant than if we don't know if we're ovulating or not. Six months down the track then a doctor says, "You're not ovulating. You need to go on medication." And that's the next stage. Instead of going, "Let's teach you about your body. Let's talk about cervical mucus." Unfortunately, doctors just don't have that time. They just follow a protocol, which is so fine. I mean, their restriction is time and that's what they're told to do and they do it well. But it's perhaps just that missing link there is referral to someone who can teach them this stuff.

And I was actually chatting with another practitioner the other day and she said my first port of call shouldn't have been a doctor, it should have been someone who could have educated me on my body. And as a consequence of that first contact being a doctor when I was having trouble conceiving, I have these ingrained words that they've spoken, these powerful words that they've spoken which have influenced me like, "You won't be able to conceive," or, "You're not ovulating," and then they just leave it there. There's no real follow-up apart from medication. So I'm not against medical world at all. It's just they're under-resourced, and they have a certain protocol they follow. And perhaps working integrated from their perspective means sending people across to a acupuncturist or naturopath or nutritionist who can absolutely change a woman's trajectory through a bit of education.

Tahnee Taylor:

I think that's such an important... This is a bit of a woo woo thing to say, but I think it's really true is like we cast spells, especially when we're in a position of power and we tell someone something, and I think something we see a lot through SuperFeast, because I think people often come to us after they've been through a few rounds of things. Certainly not every case, but we do get a lot of people that are at their last resort kind of a space. And you hear some of the stuff they've been told about their bodies and what they've then internalised as a belief system. And it's powerful. It really starts to shape how they relate to the world and what they think is possible. And certainly, I've had that experience of being told I have an autoimmune condition or being told things about my body that I've gone on to disprove, I've gone on to heal.

I respect practitioners so much, and you can't be aware of your language all the time, but I do see, especially around preconception and pregnancy, a lot of people going to GPs who aren't probably always, they're general practitioners, right? They're not specialists, they're not geared toward nourishing mothers and people about to become mothers, and they can really put things in people's heads that can be quite insidious. And I think it's something if you're listening and you're feeling not confident, there are so many amazing practitioners like Jennifer and acupuncturists who specialise in fertility that they're so used to dealing with women and they can support you. And I think it's just such a different... That was certainly my experience is going to see someone... I saw an amazing naturopath in Newcastle and then an amazing acupuncturist, and just that combination of being heard and given time, like you're saying, like an hour instead of 15 minutes, just actually being kind of held through my healing process and educated, I don't think people can underestimate that. So I just wanted to kind of put that there if you're listening and you're feeling like-

Jennifer Ward:

When you say being heard, that is absolutely huge, and particularly in this journey for a woman, because we used to have communities around us, a village around us to guide us through, even from a younger age, learning about menstruation and rites of passage, and going through preconception and pregnancy with the aunties and the whole tribe around us. And we have that today, but we have to build it for ourselves today. And this is a huge conversation I have with all my patients of, "Who is in your tribe? Who's in your healthcare team?" And they say, "What are you talking about?" And I say, "We don't have those tribes around us, but we can build one. So who ideally would you have? Would it be an naturopath, a massage therapist, a pelvic physio, an acupuncturist?"

Let's build up that wishlist and let's actually create it because we need to have space held for us in these transitions. We need to feel secure, our bodies need to feel secure, mentally we need to feel secure. And it is game changing when you have that, even just the knowledge, "I have this team around me," it doesn't even have to be that you're going to see them every week. Just knowing, "I have a team who care about me and they're there for me whenever I need them," is just not happening enough and needs to be because that is one of the best things you can do for your journey. And as I'm sure you would agree, even into motherhood, you still need these people. I've got-

Tahnee Taylor:

Spend as much time.

Jennifer Ward:

Yeah, absolutely. I have these trusted, a lot of the time, women in my life who I very much appreciate and go to so often like my yoga teacher and my massage therapist, and those relationships are so important for a woman through that transition and beyond. And so I really encourage every woman to start to build out that wishlist and don't feel guilt around it. Don't feel, "I can't spend the money. It's too much." It's not. It's what we need and that's what our society is lacking. And that security and safety actually improves our journey in so many respects. So I'm glad you said that because being heard, having space held for us is super important in that journey. And they might talk about a lot in specific areas like birthing, but it's through the whole journey we need that.

Tahnee Taylor:

One thing I really reflected on recently, because I see an acupuncturist, I just love her treatments, but I don't feel like I see anyone medically at the moment, but looking back, I remember her reminding me, this naturopath I saw, she's like, "Eat protein, drink water." And I think I'm like, "That is so basic." But I was in my mid-20s. I was flogging myself, I was working way too hard and just being sat down every couple of weeks with someone who was like, "Babe, look after yourself," until that really became internalised, I was like, "That's such a gift."

And it can seem simple, but it can become a very profound thing, I think. She always used to tell me to have a water bottle in my car and drink it whenever I stopped at the traffic. And I still do that 10 years later because it's just a little habit now, and I'm really terrible at drinking water. So it keeps me hydrated. I just find those little things, you just kind of underestimate how much of an impact it can have. And like you said, it can feel like you go and spend the money and it feels like, "My gosh, should I even invest in myself in this way?" But its dividends down the end that's a bit, I think, we forget. And it's the same-

Jennifer Ward:

That kind of information that you got, drinking water in the car, that stuck because someone you trusted told you that. Whereas if you read that online, it'll probably stick for a day or two and then it kind of drops off.

Tahnee Taylor:

Well, but then it was also tailored to me. We had a couple of chats around, "What's the block? When do you feel like you have space to slow down and actually drink a glass of water?" And I was like, "Well, sometimes I stop at the traffic lights, I'll drink." And she's like, "Great. Have a bottle of water in the car." She really took the time to listen to me, whereas I feel like everyone else was like, "Just carry water all around the day," or whatever. And I'm like, "I'll still have it at the end of the day." But just I think it's that individual care and someone spending the time. Like you're saying, individual in front of you instead of a one size fits all. It's fine to say, "Drink water," whatever. We all know that, but how do you integrate that?

Jennifer Ward: 


Tahnee Taylor:

And that's just a very micro kind of example, but it is the same with the herbs we sell. They benefit me immensely. And if I don't take them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, I won't take them because I'm so busy throughout the day, I've got little kids, I've got to work, I'm forward and back from school. It's like I have to have them when I wake up and I have to have them at bedtime. Otherwise, it doesn't happen. And that was something that, before having children, I didn't appreciate. I'd make a smoothie at 10:00 AM and I'd chuck my herbs in it. And that just does not happen anymore.

Jennifer Ward: 

And that's another interesting point because routines and rituals are so important for us, and we often get overloaded with the amount of information perhaps that comes to us for preconception care or coming off the pill, or if you have endo or PCOS, where over time, if you are continually working on building in these routines and rituals that change as you evolve wherever you're at in life, they're kind of the glue that holds everything together because you say, "I have to have it in the morning, I have to have it in the evening," and that supports you through the day.

So a lot of people go, "It's so hard. I don't know how to eat healthier all the time, and I don't know how to build in self-care." Just start with something really small like having some supplements at the side of the day or having some water in the car, or maybe it's, "Before I go to bed, I do some gratitude." And if you slowly work these routines and rituals into your routine, you see the benefit of them and then they stick. And this then becomes what I call non-negotiables where you know if you do these certain things, you'll stay on track. And we're not perfect, we don't get it right all the time, but if we know, "Hey, you know what? Actually eating that protein in the morning made me feel so much better in the afternoon and then I didn't eat so much sugar and whatever else," then we do it again, and then it's a non-negotiable. If I want to stay on top of my health and my hormones, then these things work.

And so we can also simplify it down by when we realise certain routines and rituals work and we've got that non-negotiables list. When we're feeling super overwhelmed for whatever reason, maybe that list is just on the fridge and we come back to it, and that's our starting point. You go, "If I can at least do these things, then I can worry about everything else later because I know these things kind of keep my head above the water when sometimes life feels a bit too stressful." So it's super important to have that, and that is all part of what we do as well is coaching and helping people to organise themselves and their time to achieve these goals because otherwise, it's just advice. You have to put that advice into that person's life.

Tahnee Taylor:

Yeah. And I know certainly for myself, there is so much information to consume these days that I think it just becomes more information for people and it's something we've really had to learn. My husband and I, God bless us, when we were very young, we were very hardcore. And I remember doing yoga, I had to do an hour and a half a day or I was not ever going to be anyone important in the world because it's ridiculous. I'm going to use swear words like, "This is absolute crap." And nowadays, literally, if I get five minutes on my mat or 15 minutes on my mat or whatever, I'm like, "I feel amazing. I can't believe I got that whole amount of time without someone climbing on me."

And I just think it's the same. We've never wanted to put our herbs in capsules. And then we had children and we were like, "We just want to fist capsules because we don't have time to spare." I mean, I know it's a bit of exaggeration, but it's been interesting for both of us to go from being people who had so much time to naval-gaze and devote to our wellness and to now be like, "We have a really busy business and disabled parent and children, and there's a lot going on in our lives." And it's like, "We have to."

But I think what I see is meeting people where they're at and that softening around. These rituals don't need to be big, they don't need to be extreme, the tiniest little things can make a massive difference. And the thing you said about gratitude, just every night in bed I just lie down and I'm like, "I'm so grateful for this and that," and it's just a little prayer, but it leaves me instead of like, "I'm tired and I didn't clean the house properly...," it puts me in this state of going to sleep in a more positive frame of mind, and then that spills out into my mornings. And that's just something that occurred naturally when my daughter was born because I was so grateful to have her in my bed. But it's like it's stuck.

And I think that's the thing I really want to emphasise for people is the tiny habits that stick and then compound. It's kind of like savings in the bank account. You don't realise long-term how effective they're going to be. And that's what I noticed when I had children. All the external stuff that was probably very ego-based dropped off, but the core thing, stuck, like meditation, like a real gentle yoga practice, like hydration, having my herbs morning and night. Those are the things that stayed with me even when the other stuff fell away.

Jennifer Ward:

And we often are drawn to the big stuff, right? We're drawn to the detoxes, we're drawn to the big bold changes that make a huge impact in the moment, but deep down we know that they're not sustainable and they're not tailored to us. Whereas what seems to be boring, but learning and making small changes and small tweaks is so profound in the short and long term. Instead of having these bumpy up and down like a stock exchange moments of health and moments of health and dropping back down, we incrementally improve our health and our awareness of ourselves over time. And for a lot of women, that starts at that young age of preparing the body or realigning the body where we know and understand a little bit more every day. And as you've said, you've adapted from in your 20s to your 30s that now you know that those little moments are more important than those big gestures.

So if we can step into preconception with that same mentality of actually I don't need to do everything that Jennifer's going to talk about, I just need to understand it, and then I need to kind of actually ask myself, "What's achievable today and where do I most resonate with or where do I need most help getting started?" And let's start there because the last thing I want to do in what I share is make people feel this sense of urgency or lacking that they don't have it and that they're not doing it, and then they have to do everything straight away. And that's why these longer timeframes are better because it allows us that time to feel into the advice and understand for us, "Where am I going to get the best, most benefit?" And then that stuff sticks when we make the decision ourselves rather than racing into it all at once. So absolutely, I resonate with what you're saying. Small shifts, small changes, little routines, little rituals and celebrating those is-

Jennifer Ward:

Super celebrating.

Jennifer Ward:

That's even better than celebrating. That allows us such a platform to then step up from rather than the pressures that come from big, bold, huge changes that we just want to tell everyone about. No, perhaps won't stick.

Tahnee Taylor:

20-year Tahnee time is loving this. What do you mean? 10 days of water fast in Thailand, which is awesome. It's a great idea. I did that and it was wild. It was fun. I wanted to jump onto... I bookmarked partners before and I guess there's something... I feel like women really carry the burden of preconception. And in part, yes, we are the vessels in which the baby inhabit. So I think it's important that we do carry a good chunk of that. But one thing I loved about my husband, he wasn't my husband at the time, but he was so excited about his preconception journey. I remember being like, "This is really cute." He was taking all the iodine and doing all the supplements with me and kind of doing the cleansers. And it felt really lovely to do that together and to feel in a partnership, I suppose.

And I've spoken to other women and that's not the case where they feel like the partner's like, "Well, you do it and I'll provide the sperm kind of thing." I just wonder in clinic, how you bring the partner in if you do, and how women if they want to talk to their partner about this stuff. I feel like guys don't have the same tendency, this is, again, another generalisation, but to seek out the sort of naturopathic support and the more integrative support. I feel like even getting a man to a doctor can be challenging as I understand.

Jennifer Ward:

You could do a whole podcast on this topic, there's so much in that. So I'm going to kind of break it down. I mean, a lot of men, not all, I feel they don't take criticism of their manhood well. And so to have them do tests and further tests and inquiry, it touches on something for them. Now, that's not all men. Some are free and happy to supplement, to do all the testing, to have, as you said, their own preconception journey, which is phenomenal. We need to get men thinking differently because, say, in the case that a couple's having trouble trying to conceive, it's not a woman's problem. It's often, 40, 50% of the time, actually something to do with the male. And I think why that's happened is because there's been too much of a focus on the woman and obviously they're carrying the baby. So it makes sense.

But it's not just about the womb, it's not just about the egg, it's about the communication of the egg and the sperm, and that absolutely takes a male and a female. You can't really get anywhere without that. So the way that the egg and the sperm communicate is wild. So the male needs to be healthy, he needs to be investigating his own health. Clinically though, you can't force a man to come in and see you. All you can do is give the woman some education that they can pass on to the male. So I don't force any men in, I don't even put a huge deal of pressure on the woman because that's such an innate deep kind of sense for that male as to what they feel their involvement is.

So I feel like there needs to be more of a public campaign around it and get men feeling okay to perhaps change their views on it, to understand really that their role is more than just providing their big strong sperm. So there's a lot in that. I think that if a male can come along the journey with the woman and make some dietary changes and exercise more and do some pretty basic diet and lifestyle stuff, that has huge positive impact. But really what we want to do is get them following their own preconception journey individually and then weaving some aspects of it in together because the woman, otherwise, feels immense pressure when things aren't going right, and that can lead to mental health through their journey that can lead them to feel guilt and that can lead them to actually be putting themselves in a stressful, unhealthy position for no need.

It's absolutely two people. If it is a male and a female coming together and starting a family, that need to be putting pretty well equal amounts of effort into their preconception journey and their fertility journey and just extending on that. I think that then reflects upon their involvement down the line. If you've got someone who is super involved at the preconception side of things, they have a deeper understanding, a deeper connection for the pregnancy and when bubs is born as opposed to kind of stepping back in different stages. So as you can see, there's a lot to talk about in that, but at least at a minimum, getting them involved with your journey will help .

Tahnee Taylor:

And I guess I wonder about, because you spoke to stress a little bit there, and I know that a lot of men have stress and maybe it manifests in sort of different ways. I think women tend to move into more of an anxiety and, again, generalising, but what I've seen in terms of the people we speak to. Whereas I don't know as much about how men kind of internalise that, but I guess just I want to bring it to a biochemical level because I think something I'm passionate about saying and try to sort of impress upon people is like, "Your body will prioritise survival over reproduction all the time. And if you want the optimal opportunity to reproduce, you need to provide the sort of energetic container for that and the biochemical container for that," which means on some level, the body needs to feel safe enough to conceive and to hold the child through to birth.

And that comes into birth as well, that mammalian aspect of ourselves and feeling as safe as we can in our environment and with the people who we surround ourselves with so we can have the best outcome possible. I guess, can you speak a little bit to... Because I'm assuming you're based in Sydney, so you're going to be seeing a lot of people from the city. And I remember chatting to friends who were super healthy, young, and it would take them two or three years to conceive. And the only thing I could think of is it has to be stress like, "You guys are living these crazy lives, working 70 hours a week and partying. And it's like the body is just exhausted and it's," that's my take anyway, "not going to open to having a baby."

Jennifer Ward:

Absolutely. Stress can play into it. It's not something that I stamp onto someone's journey as being the overall overarching just because there is so much medically and in our allied professions that we don't know about infertility. There's so much in autoimmunity, there's so much in that kind of egg-sperm connection. So we want to view it as these things can help the situation, but we don't want to channel it down to, "This is the cause." That's super important just because sometimes women stress because they're stressed and we don't want to make it worse in the situation if they're having [inaudible 00:54:11], but totally get where you're going with that. And I think, and I see it all the time, stressed out people, the best way that I like to view that and even preconception in general is from a cellular level because it's easy to comprehend when we are at that stage of trying to conceive.

We've just got a couple cells, right? We've got our sex cells, sperm cell, egg cell, and inside those cells is kind of the powerhouse, the mitochondria, we've got in particular, the egg, some follicular fluid, and that cell can be positively or negatively influenced. And we often think of it being positively influenced by antioxidants and negatively influenced by free radicals. And so if we're thinking about how stress affects us, how our lifestyles affect us, how our diet affects us, the simplest way to think about it is from that single cell level and is what I'm doing creating more antioxidants or is it creating more free radicals?

And so if you're in a situation where you get home, you're super stressed, all you want to do is drink some wine and eat some chocolate and watch Netflix, which no judgement , that sometimes is the right answer. We can think of it from a cellular level of, "Actually what I possibly need right now is a long bath, to do some journaling, and have an early night." And so we can think about our health from that kind of seesaw of, "Am I doing more harm or good to my cell this day, this moment, this week, this year?"

And unfortunately, stress is something that can cause more free radicals. So in those situations, we might need more support via supplements, via diet, via movement, via self-care to bring back that balance and even top it so that antioxidants are in the preferred ratio to the free radicals. So stress affects our whole body, our hormones, that antioxidant free radical balance. And it's inevitable, always have it, but it's more about what we do with it. And in those small moments where we talk a lot about rituals and routines and small shifts and changes, just doing that one thing of going, "I'm going to have a shower instead of turning on Netflix," can make a huge difference as it almost catapults us to then seeing the benefit, doing it again, seeing the benefit, doing it again. And then with that renewed energy after doing something positive as opposed to negative, we might choose to journal, we might choose to go to bed early and then wake up early and feeling better.

So to, I think, best overcome stress when it is high and when it feels like it's overtaking the body is just thinking of it from a cellular level, "What can I do right now to benefit to add to the antioxidant load?" And maybe I just do that one thing today and then one thing tomorrow and just simplify it down to that level so that over time, we're slowly getting out of that stress funk and slowly supporting our adrenals, supporting our hormones, supporting our body, and putting a better position to try and conceive.

Tahnee Taylor:

So one thing I was thinking a lot about then when you were speaking is this sort of quantum biology and how being on the earth and sunlight and all these things that tune us back in, I suppose, to those more biological rhythms within the human body and those little micro things of getting to bed early and getting up and getting outside and getting some fresh air if you know you're going to be in an office all day. Those little ways you can kind of tweak your cellular biology are so important, and they can be, like you said, really simple things, but they can have a really profound impact.

One thing I wanted to just touch on before we start to wrap up because I'm just conscious of napping babies and time is... This is a phenomenon. So I'm a yoga teacher as well, and I used to see this a lot when people would come in. I had a studio right in the middle of the city, and they'd come in and they'd start to relax and they'd feel really terrible. And I'd always be like, "That's good. That's kind of how you really feel." And I felt like people would be like, "My God, what is wrong with you? Why are you telling me it's good to feel bad?" But one thing I noticed is when people are used to living in quite an adrenalized state is when they start to drop into their body and kind of come out of that constant stimulation, they start to feel a little bit crap.

Can you speak a little, because I know that tendency when you were talking about coming home, you've had a busy and overstimulated day, and then you want to just drink wine, numb out, watch Netflix, but you don't realise you're actually continuing that same hyper-stimulation. So can you speak a little bit just from your lens? Because I personally find even having children, it can be quite stimulating. And then to come back into a sort of yoga nidra or a yin yoga practise, I'll be like... Slowing down can feel really crap for a bit. And then it's like, "No, this is what I need." Can you speak a little bit to that phenomenon from your perspective-

Jennifer Ward:

Absolutely know what you're talking about professionally and personally. It is kind of a broken wire in how we're designed that we are stressed and we crave more stress. We crave more stimulation, we crave to stay in that kind of higher programming. Look, I think what is missing here is space. And I think sometimes what we need is rather than doing, is just sitting with self and just checking in. And it's okay if we're not feeling great, we don't have to ignore it and follow the next high. Just sitting with self, seeing where we're at, and then asking ourselves, and this is, again, connecting in with intuition, "What do I need?" And that could be, "Maybe I should cancel the plans that I have on the weekend and go to the beach instead." Because if we don't sit and inquire and connect in with ourselves, then we keep that whole mouse wheel going and we do more things that contribute to the stress.

So it doesn't have to be that we have to action anything in that moment. We don't have to, when we're in that high stress moment, do something that feels challenging to us like in yoga. It can just be checking in and going, "This is where I'm at." And that doesn't have to be meditation. That's literally just doing nothing, sitting with self, and then asking, "What is it that I need?" And then working that in whenever it needs to be worked in.

Sometimes it's a matter of going, "My gosh, I'm feeling so bad and so stressed because I'm in my luteal phase and I'm about to get my cycle, my next bleed. And I actually don't feel like socialising, I don't feel as confident, I don't feel as energised." And I should be respecting that and pulling back some plans and maybe sitting around and cleaning the house and, I don't know, organising a cupboard feels better at that time. Mum talking feels good for me. And then come ovulation or just before, a couple weeks later, that's when we feel our most vibrant and that's where we feel more social and confident. Go for gold. That will probably contribute to lowering stress, to socialise at that time.

So that level of intuition and just self knowing that we often forget to check in on is a game changer when it comes to managing stress. And what can help us to feel comfortable to do that is some of these other external support systems like a good diet, healthy sleep, perhaps a little bit of supplementation with mushrooms or herbs or nutrients. All those kind of little things, little micro rituals we can do helps us to kind of gather ourselves to get to that point of kind of checking in and seeing like, "What is it that I need?"

So I'm not talking on a really technical level here because sometimes that can cause us more stress in a situation. I think sometimes, and particularly in line with what we're talking about preconception and that journey, is just stripping back those layers and sitting with self is the best and most therapeutic thing we can do to navigate what next to de-stress and to feel aligned and grounded with ourselves again.

Tahnee Taylor:

I really appreciate that message because I think if you can start to embody that in preconception, that becomes through pregnancy, through motherhood and forever, one of the most useful tools, I think, just in terms of navigating life because it helps you to build that self-respect to really be like, "There's so much I can choose. What do I need in this moment and how can I best serve myself in order that I can then go and be of service to others and to my children and my community?" And I think it's such a useful muscle to exercise and it is, I think, a bit like a muscle, because training it and learning to hear that little voice because mine is really quiet. So I have to shut up so it can speak.

Jennifer Ward:

Totally. And I haven't talked a lot about specifics because I think huge part of preconception journey is mindset and self-confidence and knowingness, and education plays into it after that. So I could sit here and talk to you about all the supplements you should be taking and all the testing and all of that, which is super empowering and educating when you are in the most receptive time to take it all on board, because it can cause stress if I just give you all that information, feel compelled to go out and do it all at once versus if you have this kind of mindset of, "I'm going to ready my mind and take all this information on and do it in a way and timeframe that suits me," it will completely change that journey. Even once you've conceived and have kids, it's that coming back to self and that self-confidence and knowingness.

So all of that stuff I speak a lot more about in my preparing the body for pregnancy programme, which is individualised. We meet up once a week for six weeks, we learn everything, we talk about it from a more human level, and I'm available to answer questions on each of the topics. So to guide you through all of that information in a way that feels right for you and absolutely to avoid the situation where this is just another thing to do and a stressor in your journey, which I'll share some details on. The next is Jan or Feb.

Tahnee Taylor:

[inaudible 01:06:12] just on that, because I think what I really want to emphasise is individualised care, and it's really fine to read a book about supplementation during pregnancy or to listen to a podcast, but you might already have really high iodine and you don't need to supplement iodine. It's really important, I do think, to kind of do a little bit of legwork and get tests done and just kind of check in with what you actually need because A, it's a waste of money just to go buy a bunch of stuff if you don't need it. And B, it's really easy to get swept up in doing all the things. So I think something like what you're offering, like a container where you can kind of work with someone, you can take in all the information, but pick and choose what works for you, maybe get some suggestions as to the types of referrals you might need in terms of testing. That's the kind of thing, I think, is really helpful instead of throwing the [inaudible 01:07:07] at preconception, if you know what I mean.

And I only say it because I've been there where I was like, My God, I have to do all the things." And I didn't do that with my second baby and I feel like it was fine. He was perfectly healthy and I was perfectly healthy and it was fine. So I really want to impress that on people. I think your biggest message has been like, "Yes, this mindset piece and then also the individual. You are an individual and what you need is individual-"

Jennifer Ward:

Absolutely. Having that community to guide you also means the women around you. When in a programme like this, you do get to connect with a small group of women who are at the same stage as you. And that level of support from a social standpoint is also important. And sometimes it's better to have those people where there's a bit of anonymity and they're not your best friends and you can talk a little bit freer and clearly with them. So I'm providing that space for people, I'm guiding them through their own unique journey, and I'm making sure they're doing the right things for them at the right times rather than taking it all and causing further stress, which is the last thing we want in that journey.

So the next is Jan, Feb next year, but if anyone wants to chat through any aspects of it, I'm always available to do so. But I hope that kind of covers over an area that doesn't often get talked about, which is almost the first step before we take any action of understanding how it is applied, preconception, to us in our situation.

Tahnee Taylor:

And that inner journey of taking that first step into preparation. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Jennifer. It was such a great chat. And for those who are looking to find you, your business is called Hälsa Health, H-A-L-S-A, and your social media is the same-

Jennifer Ward:

Yes, Hälsa Health or Jennifer Naturopath. You'll find me and us. We've got a team in Paddington, but we're also online, and we're pretty active on Insta. So that's always a nice place to start. Otherwise, please feel free to reach out to me, ask anything about preconception, the programme, women's health in general. But no, thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely chats, very organic, very nice, and hopefully very grounding for everyone listening, and I hope to be back soon talking about pregnancy and postpartum.

Tahnee Taylor:

So if you are listening and you're not in the preconception phase but you're loving Jennifer, just please feel free to reach out to her because she does offer all women's health support. And we'll link to the show notes and the course. So if you're listening, it doesn't just run in Jan and Feb, right?

Jennifer Ward:


Tahnee Taylor:

You're running it throughout the year. So it'll repeat.

Jennifer Ward:

It takes for about eight weeks or so. So it's best to align with your own journey and see what's coming up.

Tahnee Taylor:

Awesome. We'll pop the link there and please feel free to reach out to Jennifer or us, and we will put you in the right direction. Thank you again for your time today.

Jennifer Ward:

Thanks so much.



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