And yes, the unfortunate reality is, that our fertility does naturally decline as we age. This is a fact of life. We can’t turn back the clock.
There is a natural decline around 35 and then a steeper decline at 40. This is reality.
This decline in fertility is largely due to a lower egg reserve, hormonal changes and a decline in egg quality.
So you have fewer eggs available and fewer viable eggs.
So that’s the bad news.
The good news, and the important thing to focus on, is that age is only one of many factors which affect fertility and egg quality. I don’t like to focus on things I can’t change, that is futile and frustrating. There are plenty of factors we can change!
I find women can tend to get fixated on their AMH level. This is a test, to check your eggs reserves, how many eggs you have left. And I have spoken with women who are so distraught over this number.
And yes that is a number that we can’t change, you do have fewer eggs available. But in reality, you only need one.
You can have a plentiful egg supply but if those eggs are not healthy and viable, then they are not capable of creating a baby. Not matter how low you egg reserve, we only need one healthy egg. It’s about quality not quantity.
So instead of focusing on your age and AMH level, I focus on egg quality, and getting that one healthy viable egg, which is something you can have a very positive influence over.
Because yes, egg quality does naturally decline as we age but there are many factors affecting egg quality, not just age. By focusing on these factors, you can have healthier eggs in your 40’s than someone who isn’t as healthy in their 20’s.
The fact is that most of the chromosomal changes which determine the viability of your egg, occur in the 90 days prior to ovulation. So it is during these important 90 days that you can improve your chances of producing that healthy viable egg which does have the potential to become your future child. And no matter how low your egg reserves, we just need that one healthy egg.
So whether you are 22 or 42 you can significantly impact the health of the eggs you release at ovulation, and you can start doing it today.
Exposure to toxins is a huge issue in today’s society and as we age this life-long exposure builds up.
We are surrounded by toxins in our environment, in the products we use and consume. Unless you live in a mud-brick house in the mountains, this is a fact of life. It is about being able to recognise and reduce your exposure.
We are all metabolically different and for some people this can have a significant impact on fertility, particularly if when you are over 40.
Reducing your exposure as much as possible is very important.
Avoid storing food and drinks in plastics, opt for glass or stainless steel containers. Buy organic produce where possible to reduce pesticide residues. And avoid processed foods, opting for whole foods instead.
Toxic exposure is not limited to things we ingest. What are you putting on your skin? What are you inhaling?
Cosmetics and Perfumes
Phthalates, which are commonly found in cosmetics and perfumes have been found to affect fertility. So avoid wearing perfumes or perfumed cosmetics. Opt for natural alternatives.
We can spends hundreds of dollars on expensive anti-ageing creams and lotions which may or may not have any effect on our appearance but certainly do nothing for our insides. Instead, focus on health and beauty on the inside and you will reap the benefits on the outside as well.
If you would like more information on how toxins affect fertility and how you can reduce your exposure, I have a great podcast titled ‘How your home affects your Fertility’ at tashajennings.com.au where I speak with expert Nicole Bijilsma, which you can take a look at.
Again coming back to the antioxidants and key nutrients, basically we start to need more of these as we age but our body starts to produce less! Antioxidants help our body better deal with toxins in our environment and help reduce the impact they have on our body.
Co Enzyme Q10
CoQ10 is an excellent antioxidant nutrient as well as playing a key role in energy production. Our body naturally produces Co-enzyme Q10, but our ability to produce CoQ10 declines as we age.
This is why you will see this nutrient in many anti-ageing skin creams but, instead of putting small, expensive amounts on your face, you are much better off getting it through your diet.
My book the Vitamins Guide goes through great dietary sources of important key nutrients and anti-oxidants as well as recommendations for each life stage. So if you haven’t already got that one, it’s a great resource which I still refer to all the time! But in general with coQ10, supplementing with around 100 – 300mg is a great addition to your daily routine.
Selenium is another important antioxidant nutrient, especially as we age, so look for a good prenatal supplement which includes selenium.
And be sure to include plenty of antioxidants in your diet. A general guide to high antioxidant foods are colours! Blueberries, gogi berries, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, red peppers, include a good variety of these lovely brightly coloured foods into your diet, because they provide the highest level of antioxidants.
I find vitamin D deficiency can also become more prevalent as we age. So it’s always worth getting your vitamin D levels checked through your GP and look for a good prenatal supplement which provides 1000IU of vitamin D.
As I spoke about in a previous Talking Fertility episode on Vitamin D, this important nutrient isn’t just for bone health, it has a significant effect on hormone production and fertility. So be sure to check out that episode of Talking Fertility for more information on vitamin D.
Hydration is super important. You may notice as we age our hair and skin can become dryer, this can happen on the inside as well. Plenty of fresh filtered water, at least 2 litres per day. And if that sounds impossibly boring, mix it up. Add some lemon or lime juice, try some herbal teas or sparkling water. Improving your hydration will have a wonderful effect on the inside as well as the outside.
I have had patients who say ‘there’s no way I can drink that amount, I will be in the bathroom all day. And yes, if you currently don’t drink much water, this increased intake may have you running to the bathroom all day. This is because your body has adapted to less intake and it needs time to adapt to this increased intake. So start slowly or just put up with the extra bathroom visits for a while until your body adapts, which it will, and your body will be all the better for it.
The other thing you can do is improve the electrolyte profile of your water by adding some electrolyte nutrients magnesium, sodium and potassium. You can get powders from pharmacies and health food stores to help with this or I even recommend adding a small splash of tonic water to your water bottle, this can be enough to break down the bonds to improve uptake into your cells.
Essential fatty acids
A good intake of essential fatty acids, especially omega 3. This is so important for strong, healthy, supple cells.
I spoke about weight and fertility last week. And this does become particularly important over 40. As discussed last week excess weight disturbs the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which is basically the feedback loop which regulates hormone production within the reproductive system.
This hormonal disturbance affects the menstrual cycle and can disrupt our ability to create an egg or even stop ovulation all together. These are factors which are also affected by age.
Insulin resistance, which I also spoke about last week, is a common problem for women with PCOS or who are overweight. Insulin resistance can affect your risk of miscarriage, which again is also more common over 40. So losing weight, where indicated can improve your fertility and you chances of carrying a healthy baby.
Now if you are significantly overweight, getting to your ‘target weight’ or that healthy BMI can seem like an overwhelming task.
But research shows that reducing weight even by 5 or 10% can be enough to boost fertility. Obviously the closer to the ‘fertile zone’ the better, this has been found to be a BMI between 20 – 24, but baby steps. Small losses can make a big difference.
If you want more information on weight loss for fertility, be sure to check out my previous episode of Talking Fertility.
Stress is a huge component. Especially as we hit our 40’s. The stress of feeling that biological clock ticking, let alone all the other work and daily stressors in our lives.
The effect of stress can be different for each of us and just because you don’t feel stressed doesn’t mean that you may not be affected; the very busyness of our daily lives can result in constantly raised stress hormones which affects the reproductive system.
When we’re under stress our body innately directs focus towards keeping our bodies healthy and alive. Reproductive function gets pushed down the priority list. If our brain is struggling with the stress of our own lives, it is not really in a place to be thinking about creating a new life.
Again this is something I work on a lot with patients, because stress is a natural and healthy part of life. You don’t need (or likely want) to be sitting in a Zen tent all day. Natural herbal and nutritional support can help the body to physiologically cope with stress better and this is especially important over 40, so if you are struggling, working with someone like myself or your natural fertility specialist can be extremely helpful to help your body better cope with stress.
It is also important to address how we see stress. The basic message is don’t get stressed about being stressed! Research shows that if we recognise and actually welcome stress knowing it is there for a reason, the negative impact of stress can actually be turned into a positive.
So change your mindset. Instead of worrying about your biological clock and beating yourself up that you ‘shouldn’t have waited so long’, which is extremely counter-productive. Focus on the amazing Mum you are going to be with all this rich experience, the love you are ready to give to your future baby, the love that is already there.
As I always talk about, you are already nurturing and nourishing all that precious DNA that has the potential to become your future child. Let you child feel all that love now and be sure to encompass yourself in that love too.
That stress is there because you care, because your future child is so wanted and loved already. The stress wouldn’t be there otherwise. Recognise and embrace it rather than fighting against it.
It is not a matter of ‘I must stress less’. Change your mindset and turn the stress into a positive. It is there because you care, so acknowledge and embrace it.
So I hope that has given you some great tips you can take away and start using today to boost your chances of falling pregnant over 40.
And remember you don’t need to go it alone, I work with women and couples on their unique fertility challenges through my Fertility for You program, and be sure to join the discussion over in the Conceive Baby with Tasha Jennings Facebook Group and sign up for the Newsletter at Conceive Baby.com.au. You don’t need to struggle alone, get the help and support you need to help you achieve your baby dreams.
As always for more information and to have your say on my next Talking Fertility topic be sure to head over to the Facebook group and let me know
- What are you struggling with?
- What would you like more support with?
- What would you like more information on?
I am here to help you. I look forward to seeing you next time!