What You Can Do to Boost Conception over 40

When I decided to try one last time to have a baby, I realized that I needed to be completely prepared for the process of pregnancy over 40.  At the time, I thought that primarily meant being physically prepared.  Two years later and watching my baby daughter sleep, I realize there is so much more than the physical preparation although that is critically important.   Getting pregnant over 40 also requires significant mental and emotional strength.  Let’s take a look at ways that women can effectively prepare themselves for conception physically, mentally and emotionally.

Part One:  It’s Physical, Baby!

     To say that women over 40 need to focus on getting super healthy prior to trying to conceive is an understatement.  Your body is the vessel that makes conception possible and you need to give it the best chance for success by being at peak health which includes several key components:

  • physical condition
  • diet
  • flexibility
  • optimal weight
  • illness avoidance
  • disease avoidance

Physical Condition

     There is no one size fits all for getting in good physical condition; but it is a critical component in conceiving over age 40.  Not only do our bodies tend to decline as we age, but we also contribute to this natural physiological response by the choices we make.  Your body makes the difference in conceiving and carrying a baby so being in great condition is one of the best investments you can make in your personal fertility.   According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should be exercising between 3 and 5 times a week for 20-60 minutes each time and using large muscle group activity such as walking/jogging, cycling or swimming.   To determine if you are working out at the right intensity, the ACSM recommends the “talk test”.  If you can carry on a conversation without being out of breath, you are at about the right level of intensity.  In addition to cardiovascular condition, it is also important to build strength through a muscle strengthening component of your conditioning.  This will pay big dividends down the road when you are pregnant and your body must support upwards of 30 additional pounds of weight.  Walk, jog, swim, stroll, dance, skate – whatever you enjoy doing.  Just get out, get moving and do it!  Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Diet

     Mom told you to eat your greens and she was right!  You literally are what you eat so you want to be as healthy and wholesome as possible as you prepare your body for making and growing your baby.   If you follow these basic guidelines, you’ll build a healthy place to make a baby:

  • Take a good prenatal vitamin containing folic acid.  Ask your doctor what vitamin he recommends.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are minimally prepared.  They retain more of their nutrients and fiber this way.  Be sure to get plenty of yellow, green, orange and blue fruits and vegetables daily.  Wash them thoroughly
  • Get enough calcium.  Eat/drink low fat yogurt, milk, cheese (even ice cream on occasion) to strengthen bones and facilitate microscopic cell processes in your body.
  • Focus on lean protein.  Just think about everything that has to develop in your body to support conceiving and carrying a healthy child.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they will help form the placenta, umbilical cord, and your baby’s musculature. 
  • Look for whole grains.  A slice of white bread isn’t going to kill you, but a slice of whole grain bread will provide more nutrients and fiber to help you build a healthy body for your baby to grow in.
  • Don’t freak out about fat.  Some fats are essential to survival.  I am not an advocate of fat being evil.  Everything in moderation.  Stick to primarily healthy fats like olive, fish and canola oil and don’t beat yourself up if you have butter on your toast. 

Flexibility

     This is one area that many people tend to ignore in the fitness spectrum.  Women trying to conceive should ignore this at their peril!  Any woman who is 9 months pregnant can tell you that extreme flexibility is required to do many normal daily tasks like putting on shoes or getting into bed.  Activities like yoga are excellent not only to improve flexibility but also encourage relaxation.  Some research suggests that stretching in general may have positive impacts on the lymphatic system.  So, take a few minutes each week and improve your flexibility.

Optimal Weight

     I always cringe a bit when I see a particular celebrity who is struggling with her well televised infertility.  In one episode of her show, her doctor tells her that she needs to gain some weight to improve her chances of conception.  I caught a glimpse of her on tv last week and she was even thinner than before.  While many women struggle on the other end of the spectrum with being too heavy, it can be just as impactful to be too thin.   Check with your doctor to see what she thinks you should weigh for optimal conception.

Illness and Disease Avoidance

     One of the first things a physician will do when you are getting ready to start trying to conceive is order a battery of tests including tests for measles and chicken pox.  Now is a good time to be sure that you are staying away from kids with chicken pox or measles, anyone with shingles or basically anyone who is sick.  Even if you had chicken pox as a kid, you can still get it again as an adult and it would certainly set you back in your quest for conception.  Even the latest version of the flu will weaken you.  Will it hinder your ability to conceive?  Probably not, but why add a weakening variable?    Wash your hands a lot, avoid people who are sick and stay away from kids who are experiencing childhood illnesses. 

     Your doctor will likely also test you for sexually transmitted diseases, so be sure that you are practicing safe sex at all times as well. 

The Bottom Line

     In a world where so much can be out of your fertility control, why not take charge of the things that you can impact like your physical health and well being.  This is something that can give you a leg up in your quest to have a baby.  Now that we have explored physical health, let’s take a look at preparing emotionally for conception. 

Part 2:  Getting Your Head in the Game:  Preparing Emotionally for Conception

     A second key component to preparing yourself for conception, particularly those of us working to get pregnant over 40, is mental preparation. 

Learn as much as you can

     Some women don’t need to be reminded to read up on the process of conception.  They already have books and magazines about pregnancy and are fully aware of the process and its ups and downs.  Most women, however, aren’t as prepared as they should be.  For example, women over 40 have a significantly reduced probability of getting pregnant and a significantly increased probability of having a miscarriage.  It is important to understand the statistics and the odds before you see your doctor.  This will help you be prepared for what will sound like grim news.  When I began trying to conceive at age 43, my reproductive endocrinologist wanted to walk me through a series of charts with bad news.  Basically, he told me that I had less than a 3% chance of conceiving.  Fortunately, I had already done my homework and  knew what he was going to say.  It wasn’t a shock to me.  I explained that I understood the odds and wanted to know what the next steps were.   Read up so you don’t get caught off guard.

Learn about testing, fertility and what could happen in the process.

     We generally don’t go into situations fully versed in what could go wrong.  In fact, its better in most cases not to go to the worst case scenario.  In conception over 40, I think it is very important to be educated about what could happen and what you can do about it.  Anyone going through infertility treatments will tell you that it can be complicated and grueling.  If you know about this in advance as a possibility, it makes it easier to deal with if it happens. 

Establish a system at the beginning.

     Getting pregnant over age 40 is often similar to a complex business project.  There is tracking your cycle, medical appointments, blood tests, procedures and medications all of which generally have to happen at precise times in the month.  Do yourself a favor and figure out a tracking system that works for you.  Use a planner, a notebook, your PC, your phone, whatever works best for you.  Establish this system and record everything in it.  You will find it an invaluable resource to help you keep track of test results, your cycle, expenses, appointments, information you learn and contacts that you make.   I found that I kept my planner with me at all times because it gave me all the answers I needed when my doctor’s office called or I learned something new and needed to see my previous test results.  I also pulled it out and took notes on every phone call and doctor’s visit.  It is so easy to forget something and equally easy to write notes in your system so that you can’t forget. 

Keeping it All Together.

    Use what you learn about the process of getting pregnant as well as the possibilities of what can happen during the process to keep yourself strong mentally.  If you wind up having to go through infertility treatments, it can take a long time and you will need to be physically and mentally strong to go through its ups and downs. 

Part 3:  Stabilizing the Roller Coaster of Emotions

     This section takes a look at your emotional health during the conception process and what you can do to help keep yourself strong emotionally as you prepare to conceive. 

     A big part of reproduction is hormones.  Ask any woman how she is impacted by her monthly hormonal fluctuations and multiply that by 10 when you factor in the stress of trying to conceive.   What used to be playful and fun now becomes a task that a couple must complete at just the right time.  Many couples report that sex becomes mechanical and sterile when they have to do it on queue.  For couples battling infertility, the stress is further multiplied when hormone injections and other interventions are involved.  All of these factors add up to emotional STRESS.  It is important to be aware of the potential stress ahead of time and prepare to keep yourself emotionally healthy. 

 Establish a close support system

     If you are married, this will almost certainly include your husband; but it’s a good idea to go beyond him for support.  In fact, he should establish support apart from you as well.  There will be times when you just feel down and don’t want to bring your spouse down.  You need to have a friend or family member who understands your situation and who you can count on to listen and be supportive.  Many couples (or singles for that matters) don’t want to tell too many people that they are trying to conceive because the constant barrage of  well meaning “are you pregnant yet?” can become exhausting and demoralizing if you’re struggling with infertility.  Keep your support system to a small trusted group.

Think about what you need for support and let your friends/family know

Everyone is different and needs a different type of support.  Some people want friends to check in and ask them how they are doing.  Other people, like me, prefer to be left alone but need someone there when they reach out.  Think about what you need and let your friends/family know specifically how they can best support you.  I recommend having a conversation outlining what they can do to help you.  For me, that meant letting friends know that I would keep them posted on progress but didn’t want them asking me about it.  They love me and were fine with that.  When I needed them, I asked and they were there.  One mistake I made was being in a geographic position where none of my friends or family were local.  I went through some very difficult times without a hug or a hand to hold.  If you can do it, be sure to have people geographically close as you work to conceive your child.

Give yourself a break

     Take time for yourself each day to unwind and relax.  Draw a bubble bath, take a walk in the park, meet a friend for coffee, get a facial – whatever helps you de-stress.  Stress has lots of negative effects on our bodies and certainly doesn’t facilitate conception.  I actually walked away from my career because I knew the stress level was too high and I needed every advantage to conceive at age 44. 

Check out on-line support

     There are many online support communities that provide an excellent forum for connecting with others in your position.  Join a few forums or look on twitter or facebook for groups that might fill a need.

Keep a healthy perspective

     It is easy to get so completely engrossed in conception that it almost becomes your identity.  This is not healthy.  In fact, I stopped visiting certain forums where many of the women could see no goodness or happiness in their lives due to infertility.  I understand the heartache of wanting a child and not being able to conceive.  I also understand the devastation of miscarriage.  I have experienced both and know that we need to experience the sadness and emotion that go with those situations.  Then we need to pick ourselves up and move forward.    It is critically important to put time and energy into other areas of your life.  Experience love and joy each day.  Think about and talk about something besides trying to conceive.

Putting it all together

     Some women conceive right away with no problems.  For other women like me, it takes years or even decades.  Give yourself every advantage as you start trying to conceive. Get in great physical condition.  Learn all you can about fertility and prepare mentally for the process.  Finally, take care of yourself emotionally.   Remember to live each day to the fullest and experience a rich life that includes joy and happiness outside of trying to get pregnant over 40.  

 

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

vijay September 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm

hi,
i am 40 years old man and my wife is also 40.i have a child age of
12 years.last 10 years my wife suffering from diabitic.but now she
have no symtoms like in diabitic.if i want to pregnunt my wife this age,can i succses this time?i try for this last three years but no result
taken any way?you suggest me what can i do for it?i am live in Ahmedabad in India.
thank you.

over35newmom September 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Hi Vijay,

My heart goes out to you and your wife. Do you have access to a Reproductive Endocrinologist? The only way to figure out why you aren’t conceiving is to consult a physician who can recommend tests to figure out what is going on. As you probably read in my story, I waited YEARS to see an RE and wish I would have done it sooner. He corrected the problem that had been preventing me from getting pregnant.

I wish you all positive energy, blessings and good luck… I wish I could help you more.

Deborah

lillian November 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Hi deborah, thank you for your constructive and informative website, I am thinking of getting your book through Kindle. I turned 43 in september having been in a 16year relationship with a much older man which has become rather complicated. Anyway I persuaded myself that I didnt want children, however a combination of events ocurred which got me thinking that I would like to have a child of my own. One was meeting a younger man (who has a daughter and lives in another country, I live in London, England) the second was my profession as a teacher of other peoples children. Now I am trying to research and get myself prepared on this journey. I am in generally good health apart from a back problem, still menstruating monthly eat and exercise healthily. The problem is the distance between myself and my husband, (we got married in August) is not conducive for regular physical contact at the moment. I do feel I have left it too late and I am not quite sure how to deal with the aspect of ovulation, as this seems to be one of the major methods of preparing your body to conceive. It is difficult in a long distance relationship. I spoke to my GP and she suggested starting with folic acid and lots of sex, before any thought of fertility treatment. This is the last thing I would consider due to the cost and invasion of ones body. How do you think I should actually start to increase my chances.? Many thanks

over35newmom November 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Hi! First, I would not wait and see what happens with lots of sex and folic acid. At 43, my opinion is that you need to do everything you can now to get pregnant. Check out the articles on my site on Testing and Ovarian Reserve – those tests will tell you alot. As you probably read, in my case, a tumor was preventing implantation. No amount of sex was going to allow an embryo to implant until I got that polyp out. None of us knows what might cause infertility. Fertility treatments in my case only meant taking Femara which had a minimal effect on my body and low risk of multiple births.

Also, a thought about the distance between you and your husband – he could send semen samples which could be washed and concentrated as sperm donor samples are, and you could use artificial insemination to get pregnant. Of course, this all has medical protocols which need to be followed, but it isn’t rocket science.

I wish you all good luck and blessings! Let me know if there is anything I can do.

Deborah

sofia January 3, 2012 at 3:05 am

Hello – thanks for the article it was very informative. I am 42y and my husband and I have been trying to conceive both naturally and through IVF with no success. I had 4 rounds of IVF with no success except for a chemical pregnancy during the first attempt. I am healthy, eat right, exercise and my blood test results are similar to a 20 year old. Both my husband and I have been tested and we jumped through every hoop possible with the idea if we do everything the doctors say it will all work out. Well…. guess again. Three years later and we are where we started. One final blood test I performed for insurance purposes was to measure my FSH levels and those levels were high. My insurance carrier decided the levels were too high and they will not support additional IVF cycles. Last year I read up on fertility and acupuncture. During the spring last year I began acupuncture treatments and noticed some positive changes with my body and my FSH levels were within normal range. I decided to go back to my regular doctor to do additional IVF treatments with the assistance of acupuncture. My doctor submitted OLD FSH test results and my insurance is not paying for any treatments. At this point I’m not sure what to do. Any suggestions?

Thank you in advance.
sofia

over35newmom January 3, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Hi Sofia,

First, insurance companies are VERY irritating. I am still fighting with mine about charges which the plan says should be covered but which the insurance company says are not “”medically necessary”. I believe they are denying my claim because I am single. Did your doctor re-submit the correct FSH levels for you?

Have you had an HSG to look at your uterus? I ask this because my situation was similar to yours – very good shape, good numbers, but years without a baby. Then my doc found the polyp in my uterus which was probably preventing implantation (due to its location). Once removed, I got pregnant immediately.

I have heard lots of good things about acupuncture but never tried it myself. It sounds like it is working for you.

If I were in your chair (which I WAS), I would ask myself if on my deathbed I could live with quitting my attempts to have a baby. I could not so I kept trying and kept believing that it was possible. I never stopped believing that I could have my own child. Ask yourself the question, and you will have your answer.

I wish you all love and blessings. If there is anything else I can help you with, please let me know – any questions, anything.

Deborah

Mellie January 16, 2012 at 6:55 am

Hi, I really appreciate your article. I turned 39 this month. I have never tried to become pregnant. Yet, I have been fighting my biological clock since I was in my mid-20′s due to a lack in finances and lots of scary stuff in the world. I know I can’t put off having children anymore if I want to become pregnant.

Now, I have decided to get my body prepared. Your article has helped tremendously.

over35newmom January 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Hi Mellie,

I’m glad the article was helpful. Good luck as you move forward. I think one of the biggest factors in conceiving is to stay positive and believe that it can happen. There will probably be many hurdles, but if you believe that you can get over them, you give yourself a huge advantage. If I can help in any way, let me know. Baby blessings to you!

Deborah

Lynette February 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Dear Deborah
I am currently 41, DH is 48. We have been TTC since 2010. I have 2 children age 21 and 18 from previous marriage. We’re seeing fertility doctor, he sent us for tests, everything came back normal. In May 2011, I was prescribed second time clomid and IUI, I found out I was pregnant on June 27, 2011. Unfortunately, I had a natural miscarriage at 6 week (Aug 6). I had my first cycle back exactly 28 days later (Sept 3). Then later we found out that I conceived naturally on Oct. 18. Both my husband and I were excited and blessed the fact that we conceived without any fertility drugs or IUI. On Oct 31, we went for the first U/S, we saw baby’s heart beat at 160bpm. The doctor said everything went normal. Then one day I was at work, I started experiencing tiny pinkish discharge when I wiped. Right away, I called the doctor and had me in for U/S check-up on Nov. 17. At the lab they discovered that the baby has been demised. Had the D&C done on Nov. 24,2011. We were very devastated and went through so much emotional 2 miscarriages in a row. We started TTC again this month February, I saw my Fertility doctor again on Jan 05, 2012. He sent me back for some test such as: FSH, LH, TSH & Estradiol (E2) on Day 3 and Sonohysterogram (SHG)/Pelvic ultrasound. Here are my results:
Blood work Jan 27, 2012 (Day 3)
FSH: 9 IU/L
LH: 5 IU/L
Estradiol: 121 pmol/L (121 pmol/l / 3.671 = 33 pg/ml)

Sonohysterogram (SHG) Ultrasound performed on Feb 3, 2012. (Day 10)
No focal abnormality
Endometrial stripe 0.5 cm (equivalent to 5mm)
Right ovary appears normal measuring 2.8×2.7×1.2 cm and contain approx. 20 follicles
3 largest follicles measure: 1.0×0.9×0.5 CM, 0.8×0.8×0.6 CM and 0.6×0.6×0.5 CM
Left ovary appears normal measuring 2.8×2.7×1.3 CM and contain approx.. 17 follicles
3 largest follicles measure: 0.7×0.7×0.7 CM, 0.7×0.6×0.5 CM and 0.8×0.7×0.6 CM

From the recent tests, do you think I still have a chance conceiving?

Thank you!
Lynette

over35newmom February 21, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Lynette,

I am so sorry for your loss and pain in dealing with two miscarriages. I never understood how devastating miscarriage is until I experienced it myself. My heart goes out to you and I am sending you lots of positive energy.

What strikes me in your note is that you were able to conceive TWICE, once without intervention. After I had my miscarriage, my OB told me that what it told us is that I CAN conceive and that was good news. If I were in your situation, I would be trying to focus on the fact that I have been able to conceive which is not the case for many women over 40.

One reality of TTC over 40 is that miscarriage rate is higher. I know that it takes a toll emotionally (and physically). Some thoughts to consider are how many times are you willing to go through miscarriage before the emotional toll is too much? Also, if someone told you that you would have another baby, but that you would have to endure more miscarriage, would you do it? No one gets a guarantee to have a healthy baby, even women in their twentites. Finally, would you regret it on your deathbed if you didn’t keep trying? We usually regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do.

Only you know the right thing for yourself. If there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know – you can always send me a note at deborah@pregnancyover40now.com.

Sending you love and blessings,

Deborah

over35newmom May 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Hi Grettel and Lyn,

Congratulations on your life happiness – that’s fantastic!

I think it’s VERY important to have an RE who shares your urgency and your goals and with whom you have a good rapport. It sounds like it might be a good idea to have a serious conversation with yours and let him/her know how aggressive you want to be. If you don’t get answers that satisfy you, it might be time to look for a new doc. You don’t have a lot of time to waste. It’s GREAT that you have comprehensive insurance. You know that every day you delay, your odds of conceiving decrease and your risks go up.

I am so glad our website was helpful!! Please keep me posted on your progress!

FYI, I just heard from a reader/friend who I last heard from last summer. She was going through challenges in getting pregnant. She wrote me to tell me that she is now 18 weeks along with a healthy baby!!!! It happens every day. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Love and baby blessings!

Deborah

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