Most women dream of having the perfect husband and a few adorable children all by the age of 30. What happens when your 30’s have passed you by and you haven’t had any babies? Worry, that’s what happens, and quite often women give up on their dream of being a mother once 40 comes around. Or so they used to.
With the advancements in modern medicine and a higher understanding of the human body, more and more women over 40 are having the children they have always desired.
It is a known fact that women in their 40’s face more challenges in fertility, conception and child-bearing. While there are major things to be concerned about such as your health and the overall effects of carrying a child at an advanced age, there is still hope. With the odds seemingly stacked against you, the best way to approach fertility is through education and planning.
According to RESOLVE, a national infertility association, at least one in 10 Americans experience infertility. The common causes behind it are the lack of proper nutrition, environmental influences, stress along with other health issues like diabetes, ovarian cysts etc.
While there are various ways to deal with infertility, it is recommended that you seek medical testing in order to rule out any conditions that may be hindering successful conception. It is only with this knowledge that you can truly know what to adjust in your lifestyle and overall health.
To increase fertility, you must go beyond ovulation charts and scheduled love-making. Your level of fertility is based upon two systems: the reproductive system and the endocrine system.
If you are wondering where the endocrine system comes into play, it is the body center that controls your hormones and ultimately, your reproductive system. Issues in the endocrine system can lead to a decrease in libido, sperm count among other things. With this in mind, if you want to start a family after 40, let these 8 holistic strategies guide you along the way.
Get to Know Your Monthly Cycle
By now you know that not all cycles are not created equal. In fact, if you have kept track of your cycle over the years, then you know things have changed more often than not. Factors like the length of your cycle, the frequency (every 28 days more or less) play a big role in figuring out your fertility window.
While the fertility window may consist of several days, there’s only one peak day per month when you are more than likely to conceive. Most women rely on the “rhythm method” – a standardized planning calculation that helps to identify their most fertile days – to help them conceive. This calculation depends on knowing your cycle and then planning for ovulation to happen around 14 days prior to the next period. Unfortunately, a woman’s fertility cycle varies each month thus causing that particular method to be hit or miss in many cases.
So how can you know when it’s the right time? By paying attention to your body. Your body will give you clues. Such things to be aware of is your basal body temperature. Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is when your body is at its lowest temperature in a 24-hour period.
This should be taken first thing in the morning upon waking up and before you get out of bed. Prior to ovulation, your temperature may range between 97.2 to 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit. After ovulation, your temperature should increase by at least 0.5 or more and stay consistent for three days. By recording your temperature daily for a few months, you should be able to see a pattern and pinpoint when you are ovulating.
The second clue that will help you is your cervical fluid. This fluid is a discharge produced by the cervix and it changes throughout the course of your cycle. You may notice that at a certain point, this fluid increases and becomes thin and slippery. When the cervical fluid turns into this consistency, it is a sign that your body is in its most fertile state. Once ovulation is over, the fluid will diminish and get thicker. To help you track your cycle, you can use tools such as a fertility timing monitor.
It is commonly agreed by most, if not all doctors that how we eat directly affects our quality of life. When it comes to the subject of fertility, that is found to be true even more so. If we are honest with ourselves about our eating habits, many of us can say that we could make some improvements, either major or minor. Whether we realize it or not, there are serious benefits to eating a cleaner diet. If you are wondering what it means to “eat clean”, it simply means to base your diet on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats.
Studies have shown that a well-balanced diet improves one’s fertility rate. According to research done by Harvard, women who consumed more fruits, vegetables, beans and supplements were more likely to get pregnant than those who did not. Jorge Chavarro, MD, ScD, noted in his study that there is a link between insulin levels and fertility. Data showed that consumption of trans fats and sugary foods have a rather negative effect on one’s ability to conceive.
Having an understanding of how foods transform in the body is a big step towards increasing your fertility. Holistic practitioners would recommend a non-inflammatory diet, meaning one that is rich in fiber and is exclusive of processed products. This would entail eating plenty of vegetables, complex carbs and proteins in order to maintain stable blood sugar levels. In addition, it is recommended that women who are seeking to conceive should reduce their caffeine and alcohol intake, both which contribute to higher blood sugar levels.
Stress is a major roadblock to successful conception. The effects of stress are far more than emotional, they are physiological as well. Living a life that is consistently high stress can wreak havoc on your endocrine system. Think about it: do you find your heart racing at least once or twice a day due to stress? Every time this happens, you are triggering your brain to go into “fight or flight” mode. Once this is triggered, your brain produces cortisol which then activates the sympathetic nervous system. The end result is that the other hormones needed to regulate your reproductive system are thrown off, thus prohibiting them from functioning as normal.
It is important to understand the difference between chronic stress and sudden high stress moments. While your body may adapt to certain levels of daily stress, sudden stress can have a very different outcome. If you experience shock or grief, those emotions could interfere with your ovulation cycle. While there are instances where highly stressful events have little to no effect at all, most women should invest in a level of self-care. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga have proven to be great for relieving stress. Anything you can do to reduce stress will let the reproductive system know that it’s safe to get pregnant.
In the Nurses’ Health Study II, conducted by Harvard professor, Jorge Chavarro, it was noted that the nurses who took multivitamins with folic acid and iron experienced an increase in their fertility than those who did not. Dietary vitamin supplements can play a vital role in how your body prepares to create life. Some of the nutrients that aid best are the following:
- Zinc: Zinc is essential for egg-cell development
- B-Vitamin Complex: Myo-inositol has been known to improve fertility and ovulation, especially in patients with reproductive issues like polycystic ovarian syndrome. B9, better known as Folic Acid is vital in protection against neural-tube defects and miscarriage.
- Evening Primrose: Aids in the productions of cervical mucus. This supplement is recommended to be used prior to ovulation to avoid uterine contractions.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This supplement guards against conditions such as endometriosis and other hormone-related conditions.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Affects the DNA health of older cells and improves fertility rates in women over 30.
- L-Arginine: Increases blood flow to the uterus and aids in embryo attachment to the uterine wall.
- Flaxseed: Improves uterine function.
- Vitamin C: Helps with iron absorption and improves fertility.
- Vitamin B6: Known to balance progesterone levels and lengthen the time between ovulation and menstruation.
Try Soothing Exercises
As trendy as it is to be fit these days, strenuous exercise routines could work against your efforts to conceive. Hard workouts and serious athletic routines have the tendency to decrease a woman’s menstrual cycle, thus preventing the ability to get pregnant. In the Nurses’ Health Study II, Chavarro notated a direct link between women who have good, regular exercise practices and healthy fertility rates.
According to licensed acupuncturists Brandon Horn, PhD, and Wendy Yu, yoga is recommended as a method to help highly active women “settle their bodies down”.
Dr. Yu believes that yoga is a “good balance of physical movement, breathing and relaxation”. In yoga, there are various poses that align with the stages of the monthly cycle. It is believed that the sequence of movements will help support the female reproductive system with ovulation and fertilization.
Take Care of Your Gut Health
When it comes to fertility, one would not normally look to their gastrointestinal system for answers. Yet, it is the GI Tract that plays a major part in determining how fertile or infertile you are. Studies show that around 70% of the cells in your immune system are in the gut wall. Low flora can affect your ability to reproduce and if your GI tract is inflamed, it can bring the process to a screeching halt. Your digestive system is responsible for removing toxins that prohibit proper reproduction function.
Poor digestion can cause the production of excess estrogen, which can decrease your fertility. The best way to ensure a health gut is to add probiotics and prebiotics to your diet. These bacteria are good in nature and they aid in balancing out the bad bacteria as well as preventing the overgrowth of it. You can find prebiotics in dietary fiber sources. Probiotics, which are more popularly known, can be found in organic yogurt, kimchi, as well as supplements.
See A Fertility Specialist
Seeing a fertility specialist isn’t the end of hope, but rather it is a very smart way to begin the journey towards conception at an advanced age. Due to normal changes in a woman’s body, there are several areas the require special focus. These areas include: egg health, uterine health, hormonal balance, cervical mucus production, pelvic floor muscle strengthening, stress management and ovulation timing. A fertility specialist can help you determine whether your fertility rate needs improvement and in what ways. He or she can also walk you through the various testing you will need to determine if pregnancy is a safe option for you.
One thing a fertility specialist may recommend is a fertility cleanse. Throughout our life time, we accumulate toxins that often get stored in the fatty tissues of our bodies. Because of the build-up, a woman’s ability to conceive can be greatly hindered. This is a detox that helps the body prepare for conception. A fertility cleanse focuses on several vital areas:
– It stimulates the liver to rid the body of toxins and excess hormones. Once the liver is in optimal operating mode, it can help the body cope with the environmental agents that get into our systems daily.
– It also aids the uterus in cleaning itself of old blood. Sometimes the uterus doesn’t cleanse itself during the monthly cycle and it fertility detox is needed to remove the old uterine lining that may have been left. The other benefit is that it increases circulation and tones the uterine tissues.