Fertility advice with Zita West: 5 tips for getting pregnant at 40
There’s no avoiding it – getting pregnant at 40 is different from getting pregnant in your 20s and 30s.
In the majority of situations, the main factor in this (taking the man out of the equation for a moment) is likely to be egg quality, although there may also be a decreased ovarian reserve (fewer eggs left) and hormonal imbalances which can be contributing factors to why women over 40 are struggling to get pregnant.
Despite it being harder to get pregnant over the age of 40 though, many women do go on to get pregnant and have a baby.
In fact, over-40s are the only age group with a rising conception rate, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.
So how do you increase your chances of success?
Fertility expert Zita West shares her top 5 tips for getting pregnant at 40.
Tip 1: Measure your egg reserves
You may have read about ‘egg counting’, but this is misleading as you cannot actually ‘count’ the number of eggs you have left.
What you can do though is use a blood test and a scan that assesses what your egg reserves are likely to be and the higher your egg reserves, the better the chances are for you to conceive.
The test will help you to make informed choice and to plan in terms of what your next steps are.
However, it is really important that you think ahead, because for every test there is always a result.
I have seen so many women devastated when they get a result they’re not expecting or have been told by a professional that they’re never going to get pregnant.
If you’re not in a relationship and do not want a baby alone, you need to think carefully about taking this test and whether it is the best thing for you.
Where it can be useful to measure your egg reserves is that it can predict how well you’re likely to respond to IVF drugs, which can help you to decide whether to start planning fertility treatment.
Tip 2: Have more sex
A lot of women that I see aged 40 and over just aren’t having enough sex. For some, they’ve been in a relationship for a long time, or for others they’re stressed and just really, really busy with their jobs and travelling, etc.
But the thing is, your 6-day fertile window is just the same if you’re 40 as it is when you’re 30 so take advantage of that. You need to be having sex at least three times a week.
Tip 3: Take the pressure off
Performance anxiety around fertility is a perfectly normal and natural feeling. The way in which some women constantly track and monitor their fertility can put pressure on their men, especially around the time of ovulation. The woman focuses on her fertile time, her anxiety goes up, she tells her partner to ‘come home immediately’, his anxiety goes up, and so on. Sound familiar?
If trying to conceive is giving your partner performance anxiety, then here are my top tips:
1. Don’t feel like you need to tell your man every little detail about your cycle – at the end of the day, it’s a passion killer!
2. Try talking to each other properly about how you can get past this hurdle together, or, if you can’t, seek couples counselling
3. For a man to be able to perform, he needs passion, and scheduling your sex life and giving him specific times when he needs to be home can ruin that, so try to come up with a plan together on how to manage this. It can be hard to have fun and be romantic all the time, but it’s important to try and take the pressure off in any way you can.
4. For many men with performance anxiety, it’s present for a short period of time – such as during the time that you are trying for a baby. But for others, it can be a sign of something underlying. Don’t be afraid to go to your GP, just to make sure everything is okay.
Tip 4: Try acupuncture
Acupuncture can help with blood flow to the ovaries, which means more oxygen, more nutrients and more help developing the follicles.
It may also help with stress and beta-endorphin release, which means a greater sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
It really can give you that bit of extra support that you need and be that one thing that you have control over to help improve the process.
Tip 4: Learn to manage your stress
So many of the women that I see at 40 have got responsible jobs and a lot of stress that comes with that.
They’re working long hours and they’re incredibly tired and, on top of that, trying for a baby as well sends them into a bit of panic.
It’s worthwhile learning to manage your stress before even trying to get pregnant. Find the stress-management techniques that work for you and ensure that you add them into your daily routine.
This may be yoga, meditation, swimming, running or just taking a long bath – try different things out and select whichever works best.
Tip 5: Be strategic in your approach
I really advise my patients to be strategic and have to plan. So many couples over 40 see getting pregnant as a challenge, but they focus so much on getting to the finish line, they forget to enjoy the journey.
Of course, getting pregnant requires time, effort and commitment. And more often than not, there will be obstacles along the way.
But you’d be surprised how planning ahead can ease your mindset and make the process just that little bit easier.
It’s important to have ticked every box and that you can look back and know that you have done everything you possibly could do. I advise the creation of a holistic plan tht looks at health, nutrition, wellbeing, relationship, stress, work-life balance, as well as looking outside the box, too.
At 40 there is a limited window of how long you should try naturally because of age and uncertainty about getting pregnant quickly.
So exploring options such as IVF ( depending on your egg reserves) is worth doing and will help you understand what your options are.
You can find more by Zita West at zitawest.com, or you can make an appointment to visit the Zita West Clinic (020 7224 0017), where Zita and her team specialise in natural fertility and IVF as well as working with couples who have already had failed IVF cycles.
This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.
For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.
If you have a story to tell, please do get in touch at [email protected].
Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far – and you can find all Fertility Month content here.
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