There's no guarantee of success, but there is some evidence - at least from joyful mothers - that astrology can increase the chance of conception, explains Suzi Lewis-Barned.
Astrologers believe that everything in life – from your relationships to your health - can be influenced by astrological arrangements of the stars and planets. So, when you’ve tried everything under the sun to have a baby, should you be looking to the stars for help?
'Definitely,' says fertility astrologer Nicola Smut, who believes that, although not a guarantee of success, astrology can increase the likelihood of conception by identifying times during the year when you are most likely to conceive. Nicola has researched many of the laws governing astrology and how it can affect a woman’s physical health, the number of eggs she produces, and even the condition of her fallopian tubes. For men, Nicola believes astrology can describe sperm count as well as the shape and movement of sperm cells. All these factors are visible in the chart which Nicola creates from information given to her by the prospective parents about the date, place and time of their own births.
'Astrology is about describing the quality of time,' explains Nicola. 'Using a personal chart we can identify around two to three fertile moments in a year in anyone’s chart if they are of child bearing age, so that treatment can be timed to coincide with them.'
Nicola’s methods are based on medieval writings that she then applies to modern day fertility issues. 'Having been through fertility treatment myself, I’m well aware of the pain and desperation of trying to conceive,' she explains. 'As well as offering practical information about astrology, I try to support my clients throughout their treatment.'
Clients sometimes ask whether they will ever have children. This, however, can be a difficult question to answer, as Nicola explains: 'Although astrology is some 7000 years old, the chances of a prediction’s success can be greatly influenced by modern science so what can seem to be an ‘infertile chart’ can be affected by the latest medical advances in IVF which can overcome infertility in many cases.'
Clients come from all walks of life and consultations normally take place via Skype. 'I don’t actually need to meet my clients because I’m not reading energy from them, just drawing up an accurate chart, so the quality of the reading isn’t compromised by not meeting face to face,' explains Nicola.
Although she estimates success rates to be around 70%, they are difficult to measure because not all clients report back about their pregnancies. 'It’s difficult to quantify the success of fertility astrology because there is no control group and astrology is holistic, so you can’t take out variables,' explains Nicola. 'I believe there are a number of factors that lead to success and one of them may be that when I consult my clients I’m addressing issues of the soul, whereas IVF specialists are addressing issues of the body in a more mechanical sense.'
In order to try to develop a deeper understanding of why astrology seems to work so effectively, Nicola is currently carrying out research to find out whether her methods still work if the person receiving IVF treatment is unaware that astrology is being used to predict the best times for the treatment and never actually meets her. 'If this proves to be the case, I may be able to train others in my methods, opening up astrology as a complementary treatment that can be adopted by many fertility clinics,' she explains.
Catherine’s story: A mixture of cutting-edge science and fertility astrology
Writer Catherine Blackledge, 42, who had been trying to conceive for five years, was researching a book about the great English astrologer William Lilly, part of which involved taking a course in predictive astrology techniques. 'I had been trying to conceive for five years,' she recalls, 'with several unsuccessful attempts at IVF and miscarriages after both IVF and natural conception, and one of these miscarriages happened while I was doing the course. My tutor suggested I should give Nicola a call, an idea which, as a scientist with a PhD in Chemistry, I would previously have dismissed. However, my book research had opened my mind to the possibility that there might be something in it so I phoned. After a consultation via Skype, she suggested three times in the coming year when I was more likely to be successful in becoming pregnant with IVF. I already knew that I had scarred fallopian tubes so a placebo or being told to relax simply wouldn’t have worked.
'Nicola talked me through the astrology chart she had drawn up and explained why it was difficult for me to conceive. I asked her directly if it was ever going to be possible and how much longer I should go on trying. I remember she said, “I think we will get there.” For some reason, despite my infertility history, I completely believed those words.
'As well as choosing one of the times that Nicola had suggested, we also used a different type of IVF where the genetics of the embryos are analysed as well as the size and shape. I couldn’t bring myself to tell the clinic why I wanted to choose that particular time to have the IVF treatment because I thought they’d laugh at me!
'It turned out that there were only two genetically normal embryos out of 14, one of which is Willow who was born after a completely normal pregnancy. She is a beautiful joyful little baby and I feel so fortunate. I believe that my successful pregnancy was due to a mixture of cutting edge science and fertility astrology. So the research for my book has already brought me the most amazing reward, even before it has been published!'
Mandy’s story: 'I am quite clear that if I had not spoken to Nicky then Violet would not exist'
Mandy, 46, who describes herself as a ‘fertility veteran’, had been trying to have a baby for six years. During this time she had spent over £45,000 and tried ‘everything’ including five visits to South Africa for donor egg treatment.
'I’d gone past the stage of feeling totally wretched and by the time I consulted Nicola I was really looking for closure, expecting her to say I had an infertile chart and should give up,’ she explains.
'I’d been to South Africa for treatment, having followed the blog of a South African woman called Tertia Albertyn who had been through fertility treatment herself and now ran a donor agency there called Nurture. Tertia recommended Nicola, who is also South African. I was incredibly cynical about the whole idea of fertility astrology at first, but by then I’d wasted so much money that I thought it was worth a try. At least I could then really say that I’d tried everything, even if everyone thought I was crazy (including my husband Mark)!
'I was surprised that, having drawn up my chart, Nicola didn’t see it as particularly infertile. The consultation via Skype took place in mid-June and she advised me to go back to South Africa in August, reassuring me that it would result in a successful pregnancy this time. Mark was very against the idea because, quite apart from the seemingly ridiculous timeframe (it normally takes about five months to set up a cycle with drugs, clear a donor, book flights, accommodation, time off work), he just didn’t want to go through the disappointment again. However, when I contacted Tertia again, she said she was certain that if Nicola had said it would be successful, it would be and that I should go for it.
'The weather in South Africa was awful - and it was really depressing when the donor we had chosen turned out not to have any eggs. Everything seemed to be against us. However, the clinic doctor, whom we’d come to know rather well after all those visits, took pity on us and offered us some eggs from another donor. The eggs had been vitrified, a technique that the clinic had just started to use, but without much success. The eggs didn’t thaw well, only one fertilised, and I was convinced the whole thing had been a massive waste of time and money.
'I was so sure it would fail that I didn’t rest up and was absolutely amazed when, a few weeks later, I had the best hCG reading I’d ever had, suggesting that I was viably pregnant. Although I had a threatened miscarriage at seven weeks, the pregnancy ended up being fine. I was amazingly healthy with no high blood pressure or any other complications and Violet was born weighing 8lbs 8oz, a perfect little baby.
'I don’t know why it worked, but I am quite clear that if I had not spoken to Nicky then my beautiful daughter would not exist. I owe her a big debt of gratitude.'