Fertility After 40
It’s no secret that the chances of falling pregnant naturally are reduced after 35 and onwards. However, experts agree that it is possible to navigate natural conception after the age of 40.
Let’s get the not-so-great-news out of the way first. Even if you’re of optimal childbearing age (35 and under) you can still experience difficulties falling pregnant naturally. In fact, one in six Australian couples of childbearing age will be faced with fertility challenges, with both males and females almost equally affected by fertility issues. And with age, the chances of experiencing difficulties increases, with many couples seeking medical intervention.
The good news? There is hope, and you may not need to follow the IVF path. According to leading fertility specialist and gynaecologist, Dr. Raewyn Teirney, there are things you can do that may improve your chances of conceiving naturally over the age of 40. Here’s her checklist:
Visit your GP for a check-up
Request a long visit and have a thorough chat about your risks and expected outcomes. Ask your GP to perform some preliminary checks to rule out any existing medical conditions that could potentially complicate matters. Also discuss any tests you may need to have throughout your pregnancy to ensure the health of your developing baby.
Maintain a healthy weight
This is important at any age, but particularly so as we grow older and especially if you are trying for a baby. Research has shown us that it’s harder to conceive naturally when either partner in the relationship has a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25, and significantly more so when greater than 30.
If either you or your partner are carrying a few extra kilos, now is the time to think about eating well and in moderation and taking up an enjoyable form of exercise.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Put down the junk food and eat as nature intended – think plenty of antioxidant, vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein and essential fatty acids. Eating nutritiously not only assists with weight management, but it also helps to ensure you’re eating the right combination of vitamins and minerals required for conception and a healthy pregnancy.
Enjoy regular exercise
Aside from the weight management benefits, regular workouts (even a brisk morning walk) helps to manage mood and stress levels while you’re trying for a baby (a time that can be quite draining if it’s not happening as quickly as you’d hoped).
Studies also show that the fitter you are, the more likely you are to want to engage in sexual intercourse. After all, the better you look naked, the more time you are likely to want to spend naked!
Take pre-conception vitamins
Even if you are eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet, this is super important as your growing baby requires specific nutrients for its development both in and out of the womb. Leading health organisations and fertility experts alike recommend women trying to conceive take folic acid and iodine supplements, while the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that all women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant or breastfeeding take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms (μg) and 500 micrograms of folic acid daily.
For men, studies stress the importance of antioxidants for healthy sperm and reproductive health, and sperm DNA.
Get to know your monthly cycle thoroughly
If you are familiar with your cycle and you can recognise when you are most fertile, you have an improved chance of falling pregnant naturally.
There are super simple and highly accurate techniques you can employ, including monitoring your basal body temperature, measuring changes in luteinising hormone levels in urine and observing for changes in cervical secretions. Other signs of fertility and ovulation include cramping in the lower pelvis (either side), tender breasts, increased sex drive, enhanced sense of smell, fluid retention, bloating and pimples or acne.
Have regular sex
Once was a time, many thought abstaining from ejaculation kept sperm vital, healthy and powerful, better enabling them to do swim fast and effectively fertilise the egg. These days, we know that frequent ejaculation is needed to maintain sperm health and improve its function. The good news is that we suggest couples have sexual intercourse at least two to three times a week – not just in your most fertile times!
Live a healthy life
We know that the healthier you are, the healthier the organs of your body will be. This includes your reproductive organs, too. Quitting smoking, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and getting plenty of quality sleep, as well as rest and relaxation, are important factors in living a healthy lifestyle and improving the longevity of the reproductive system – in both males and females. Recent medical studies also now show that regular meditation improves fertility health.
Furthermore, it’s really important to avoid illicit drugs, including cannabis, and ask your GP if any prescription medication you or your partner might be taking could interfere with your chances of conception or a healthy pregnancy.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Your first stop can be your local pharmacist, who can point you in the direction of targeted fertility planning kits created by specialists in the field, which contain everything you need to track ovulation, predict your most fertile days and live a healthier lifestyle that is more conducive to conception. If after six months of trying, you are still not successful, we recommend asking your GP for a referral to a specialist to discuss the myriad medical options that may assist you.