Is it too late to get pregnant in your forties? Not if you ask me. It was not as easy though as getting pregnant the first time, when I was ‘only’ 36. After trying for about a year, I decided to do a couple of things to help me get pregnant naturally again. These are my best tips.
Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. I had always thought I would start a family with my first boyfriend but sadly he died young. I was still single at 36, when my soon to be husband asked me on a date. We had been friends for a couple of years, but as I had been his teacher in creative writing when we met, we just hadn’t looked at each other in that way. Until that first kiss. We soon talked about how we both wanted children, but thought it would take a while because we were in our late thirties. But life is full of surprises: three months later I was pregnant with twins.
A few hectic years followed (I even wrote a book about it). After the twins were born, I always knew in my heart there was room for a third baby, but we were just not ready. Life with twins can be very hectic, especially when you are still trying to get to know each other. For a while I felt pressure to get pregnant before I turned 40 but at some point I decided to let that go. Although I knew the risks of a pregnancy would increase as I got older, I still thought it would be healthier for me and the baby to wait until we felt completely ready and I would have my energy back. Also, I had already had a risky pregnancy before and the risks of a twin pregnancy are so much greater than that of a singleton pregnancy later in life. So I decided to just have faith it would all turn out well.
When our twin girls turned four, we felt there was room for another child. But after trying for about a year, I wasn’t pregnant yet. I still had my period regularly, so I didn’t think my fertility was a problem. But still, maybe there were some things I could do to increase my chances of getting pregnant. This is what I did.
- Visit an osteopath. For me this felt like the way to go. My osteopath had helped me with all of my postpartum complications after having the twins and I was a huge fan of her holistic approach. Nevertheless, I want to add to this, if you are worried you have serious fertility problems, I would suggest to also have a health check-up at a gynaecologist. When you are in the process of IVF, an osteopath can help support the process though. My osteopath concluded the scar tissue of my C-section was causing some delay in my ovaries. Two treatments of mainly deep tissue massage solved this. She also suggested to eat less sugar.
- Visit an acupuncturist. As a friend of mine, who had had her second baby at 46 by conceiving naturally, had a good experience with an appointment with an acupuncturist, I thought I would try that too. A few treatments can help you balance your hormones and improve the blood flow in your endometrium and your genitals. In my case my acupuncturist focused mainly on the scar tissue of my C-section, just like the osteopath. Although she had no connection with my osteopath, she also recommended I cut down my sugar intake.
- Eat less sugar. So this is what I did as well. I didn’t quit eating sugar entirely, I just ate fewer cookies and less chocolate. Instead I made hot chocolate using raw cacao and soy milk, or ate a whole grain cracker with a bit of dark chocolate spread. I didn’t want to stop eating sugar entirely, because I still wanted to take the whole conceiving process lightheartedly without getting stressed out about it.
- Eat intuitively. About my diet: I have always eaten intuitively, inspired by the Ayurveda. I have never smoked, never followed any diet and rarely drink. I eat mostly vegetarian and when I do consume meat or dairy, then only organic. I drink one coffee a day at most and when I feel a cold coming on, I swap my coffee for a chai latte or a golden latte (fresh curcuma, ginger and other spices mixed with hot milk). Since I got pregnant during the first lockdown, I had already stopped drinking coffee for a couple of weeks to boost my immune system. Drinking coffee daily can have a negative impact on your fertility. I also started taking a multivitamin with folic acid.
- Get fit. Following the ayurvedic insights on health, I don’t practice intensive sports when I am low on energy. So when the twins were born, I stopped doing heavy workouts and focused on taking walks with the stroller and cycling daily (it’s something that we do a lot in the Netherlands, we hardly use our cars). When I felt I had regained some energy, I picked up my regular yin yoga. After doing that for a couple of months, I started doing more intense workouts at the gym and more intense yoga forms. By the way breathing, if you ask me, is the most important way to stay healthy, even more important than what you eat or how much you exercise. As I have practiced yoga for over 20 years, I want to point out the importance of always breathing through your nose to stay fit and healthy.
- Make space. I also felt I had to make space for our new baby, in all senses of the word. We decided to expand our living space with an extra floor so that there would be enough room for a family of five. I cleared a lot of clutter too. As the birth of the twins had caused me considerable stress, I also did a few of the exercises of my writing course Write your birth story (only available in Dutch for now).
- Think positively. You might not agree on this one, but I truly believe it’s hard for a baby to be conceived in a body that is under stress. So try to reduce stress as much as possible. In my opinion negative beliefs can also cause stress in your body, so try to think positively and visualize yourself in a healthy pregnancy. Don’t tell yourself you are too old to get pregnant and don’t hang out with people who say you are, because you will give your body the wrong message if you do. Instead thank your body for having served you so well and for continuing to do so. If your friends are getting pregnant (and you are not yet) celebrate their pregnancies as if they were yours, knowing you too will have something to celebrate one day. At the same time (although this is the hardest part) don’t be too attached to the outcome of your wish. Make sure you are happy with the life you already have. If you feel the process of getting pregnant is too stressful or exhausting, then sometimes it’s better to stop or take a break. Only you know when you have done everything that felt right. After that, it is out of your hands.
PS in the Netherlands you are not geriatric until you are in your fifties. Apart from my sisters, I have several friends who conceived in their forties. It’s not even a thing that people frown upon, at least not in Amsterdam. Although I think it’s quite special both my sisters and I were blessed with late pregnancies at the same time, I was a bit surprised my Reel went viral. I only realize now that most people seem to believe we broke with society’s conventions. Originating from a strong family of women who conceived children until they were ‘old’, I can only be proud of that.