At 42, in a graying autumn, I was in grief from miscarrying while also back to drawing boards to enlist a new known-donor for the gift of more seeds to again conceive. I was falling, deflated.
Amongst my made-up self-care methods were evenings searching the web for stories of women who got pregnant over 40. I hungered to read of successes! I wanted to drink in inspiration and feed this determination pressing me from the day I turned 40: even single and at an advanced age for baby-making, I had devoted to do my best to conceive.
I had not imagined that conceiving over 40 would be that hard. As a devoted yogi and professional dancer, I was both in good shape and deeply trusted my body. I thought all I needed was unprotected sex and soon enough, I’d be pregnant. To chose pregnancy solo, and on an artist’s income was bold enough. Knee- shaking. But, to find myself at 42, mourning a miscarriage and searching for a new donor, I was cowering. So I started searching for inspired stories.
To my delight, stories of women over 40 who had gotten pregnant were not actually hard to find. I was impressed with the variety of differing story lines, deifferent reasons, and different ways these women had conceived. In them, I saw hope. My heart again alighted in knowing: truly anything is possible.
Finally, I got to be one of those “against all odds” stories! I got pregnant over 40; I was 45.
That 5-year journey of tumult, rises and falls, gave birth to both precious twins and an in-depth education, with loads of direct experience, about fertility optimization.
So, I can tell you this: it can be hard. Or, in fact, it can be easy. Simply know that it is NOT impossible. If you are over-40 and you want this, do try your best!
…So that you will never have one regret.
In the same search to see real stories of women over 40 conceiving, I also came across too many articles asserting the fact that fertility declines with age. Now that I have learned heaps about fertility, I want to challenge that type of statement. I think to sum up so many points, even well founded ones, in that particular way simply disempowers. The generalizations are needless. They can only hurt thousands of women, not help.
In my commitment to help: I will re-state, differently, what is research-based about fertility and age. I say: there are some aspects of fertility in particular that will most likely be adversely affected by advanced age. Yet, there are other fertility markers that in fact have no direct connection to age and that therefore any woman can optimize at any age.
The bottom line of fertility is not about age.
The bottom line for getting pregnant is about your particular fertility level.
Here are 5 things you need to know when you are over-40 & trying to conceive.
Why do some women get pregnant over 40?
Firstly, we have to acknowledge the mystery. With all we can know about what makes a conception happen, we can never know why this one conceived and the other one did not, when all things might appear equal. Conceiving over 40 is not impossible. It takes many parts of fertility physiology to be in place, but it is very possible!
A Good Egg, that month
This is key: The egg story. Every woman, under normal circumstances, only drops one egg a month. It is natural and normal for not every egg to be good enough to inseminate or to power the replication of cells into a viable embryo that goes the distance.
Statistically, older women have less good eggs. It is like a lottery. It is according to the luck of the draw which egg will drop from the ovary into the fallopian tube each month. Older women have a smaller percentage of good eggs. There is no way to know what that percentage is or when the good one will come. (Prayer is key here!)
Let’s say, as an approximation and for example, that an over-40 woman has one good egg out of every 10. That would mean that in ten months, one egg would be fertilizable and in order for sperm to meet that egg, other conditions must be optimal. So, one way to look at it is, it can truly take longer for older women to conceive. (…or, not! we really never know)
According to the same reasoning, older women might experience more early miscarriages (chemical pregnancies), since a “not good egg” might get inseminated and an embryo then start to grow, but has not the power to continue.
I myself experienced a number of those early miscarriages. While each was terribly painful, I also learned important facts: 1. The sperm got to the egg, indicating good fertile CF and open fallopian tubes. 2. I was ovulating on-time as my self-assessments predicted and 3. My own at-home insemination methods were working!
The quality of sperm can be a major factor in whether or not anyone gets pregnant, but especially for women over 40. The best sperm swim fast, have normal shaping and genetics, and have stamina. If a woman over 40 is getting pregnant, it is more likely that she also had strong sperm from her partner/donor. Women over 40 who are using donor sperm might therefore have a small advantage, as the sperm that sperm banks sell is of the highest quality.
For a woman over-40 who is TTC, if the male partner is over 35/36 it could always be a good idea to go for a semen analysis at the outset. Last I checked, it is fairly affordable and often possible to arrange directly with a clinic, not via a GP order.
A Healthy Lifestyle & Balanced Hormones
These are some other essential factors that women of any age, over 40 especially, can optimize to increase the chances of conception and a sustained pregnancy.
Healthy lifestyle cannot be overstated. Good rest, good whole food, hydration, exercise, and good sleep must all be given good attention:-)
Additionally, there are ways to track and check the balance of your hormones at-home. More about this is below.
What are the signs that I am more likely to get pregnant even over 40?
Good Fertile Cervical Fluid
The cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vaginal canal) makes fluid which varies at different times of a woman’s cycle. Right before and often during ovulation, a healthy reproductive system will have the cervix produce “fertile CF”.
When a woman over-40 is still producing fertile CF, this is a very good sign of her ability to conceive. This fertile CF both feeds the sperm (as it can spend time in the cervix waiting for the egg to drop) and helps it get up into the cervix. See more about fertile CF here >>
A regular 27-32 day cycle
Women can become peri-menopausal at quite varying ages. One of the signs that a woman is entering the years-long process to full menaupose is a-rhythmic cycling. That is, her cycle gets much shorter than the average, or much longer.
A woman, even over 40, who has a cycle that is regular and consistently totals 27-33 days, is showing signs of good hormone balance and therefore a good level of fertility.
see more here >>http://fertilityforreal.com/does-late-ovulation-mean-my-eggs-are-bad/
Confirmation of Regular Ovulation
Confirming regular ovulation can be done with at-home and DIY assessments. It takes a few certain steps and daily commitment to be sure of ovulation. These include: daily BBT charting, checking Cervical Fluid also daily, and using LH home tests at the right time. More about how to confirm ovulation is in these articles:>>
When a woman, even over-40, can confirm that she is ovulating on-time and every month, this is a great sign of fertile health.
What can make conception and a sustained pregnancy harder to achieve over 40?
Less Regular Periods
When periods get less regular there are many issues that could be indicated as sub-optimal for conceiving. One main point is that it will be much harder to know your fertile window. In that case, it is also much harder to appropriately time conception-sex or insemination.
A Drying Pattern in Cervical Fluid.
Women over 40 are more likely to be beginning a drying pattern in CF. As we age, in general, moisture is less abundant in many of our body’s tissues. We often notice, for example, our face needs more moisturizing, or we need to use lubricant for sexual activity. So too can be this drying tendency in cervical and vaginal fluids. The cervical fluid that is egg-white consistency (EWCM) is the most fertile. If this is scant, more tacky, or even non-existent , it will be harder to conceive.
Also note, that vaginal lubricants should not be used at all when TTC. (There is one brand that is known to be sperm friendly, but I have found lab techs who say that is not certain. So basically, avoid any.)
Egg Quality Diminishing
As already indicated prior, this issue of egg quality can really be the kicker. Why? because all cells in our body are less “fresh” as we age, this can be true also for our reproductive eggs. However, we really cannot test this to have an exact assessment. Lab testing has some methods that would help form a clearer assumption, but from all I have read, these markers cannot be relied on to supply a fact.
We do have to assume that egg quality does diminish with age. But, we do not have to assume that all eggs are of poor quality. What we do have to assume is – that we do not know. This egg quality question is surely a factor for women over 40 trying to conceive. There are some things we can do, but those are basically attending to our over-all general health and might have more to do with how we cared for ourselves in our 30’s in any case.
Shorter Luteal phase
Women over 40 might be experiencing a shorter Luteal Phase, that is the number of days after ovulation and leading up to a period. Typically, this phase is 14 days. If women experience a Luteal phase shorter than 14 days, and especially if that occurs often, this could indicate low progesterone. This can be checked via blood draws in a lab. For any woman trying to conceive over 40, if your luteal phase is short, do ask your MD for a cd21 blood draw to check P levels. If they are moderately low, which can be common at advanced reproductive age, there are natural remedies that might help.
Normally, at around cd21 Progesterone peaks and this peak supports proper implantation and the sustaining of that implantation.
What Can I do to Optimize My Chances to Conceive Over 40?
To optimize your chances to conceive over 40, you do the same as everyone, just do it more diligently and thoroughly!
Study your “fertility physiology” and Track your cycle.
This self-study and tracking is irreplaceable. No one can assess you better than you. What medical professionals do offer can be additional assessments that help to pinpoint issues, but the first steps are best done at-home by you.
For women over 40, learning your own body is especially essential. From your tracking, you will learn what needs support in your fertility physiology. From that point, you can find out about optimization methods, both natural and holistic as well as synthetic and clinical, if you should choose.
Read these posts and see these videos for learning about tracking and self-assessments of fertility physiology >>
How can I keep hope when trying to conceive over 40?
Love. “Love” is even a minor articulation for what you already feel for that child who is drumming on your bones to come into being, right? Love is thrusting desire into you to want this pregnancy, right? We have got to keep active in loving while even potentially feeling the stress of TTC.
How? Find your way. I took walks in the wilds and put my nose in moss. I made playlists of funky dance music and in dark evenings went nuts! I took baths and massaged oils into my womb. I participated in both random and not random, acts of kindness, often. I did not always feel good, or positive. I did not always feel love-full. But I knew the wisdom of and committed to, returning to a sense of Love, every time I could. I wanted to never have a regret. Whatever happened, I needed to know that I tried my best.