When I was in my twenties, I knew about a lot of things, but my fertility wasn’t one of them. Truth be told, the last thing I wanted at that point in my life was to be a mother. I was too busy living in New York City and planning my move out of the country to even think about raising a child.
It wasn’t until I reached my early thirties that the baby bug bit and I suddenly became interested in what getting pregnant actually involves. At that point I realized just how much I had to learn.
Fertility and women’s reproductive health has now become my passion and whether you are trying to conceive or not, there are some basic facts that I think every woman should know.
1) Age still matters.
When my mother had me on her 36th birthday, she was considered a geriatric pregnancy. It might surprise you that thirty-six years later, women who fall pregnant over the age of 35 are still given this classification.While it has become socially acceptable to put off having children like never before, our bodies still haven’t caught up.
A woman’s fertile peak is still in her mid-twenties, with women under 25 having a 96 percent chance of conceiving in a year if they’re trying each month. If you’re already in your mid-thirties, however, don’t panic too much as the likelihood of conceiving within that same time frame is still relatively high at 78 percent.
The real descent happens after age 40. After your 40th birthday, you have a 25 percent chance of conceiving with your own eggs, and by age 44 that number falls drastically to 1.6 percent. If you are in your mid-forties and are open to using donor eggs, however, the success rate using IVF skyrockets to 75%.
2) You are your least fertile AFTER ovulation.
A woman’s fertile window lasts about six days, including the day of ovulation and the five days BEFORE. A study by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences found that a woman’s capacity to conceive seems to end on ovulation day.
That means if you’re tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) and waiting to have intercourse on the day you see a peak in your chart, chances are you have already missed the boat. Remember that an egg only lives for 24 hours, but the average sperm (and his gang of 20 million) can hang out for up to five days, so make sure you are having regular sex in the week before the peak!
3) A miscarriage is not your fault.
The most common cause of a miscarriage is chromosomal abnormalities, not anything that you did wrong. Chromosomal abnormalities account for 40-50% of miscarriages. If you’ve read Rebecca Fett’s book It Starts with the Egg, you’ll know that the three months before ovulation are the most transformative time inthe life of an egg cell. Apart from growing in size, it must also “execute a precise process of separating and ejecting copies of chromosomes.” When this process doesn’t go as well as it should, chromosomal abnormalities occur that make it nearly impossible for the resulting embryo to continue growing into a fetus.
Since chromosomal abnormalities are directly related to egg quality, and our egg quality declines with age, the likelihood of miscarrying increases as we get older as well. According to Dr. Lora Shahine, in her book Not Broken, the risk of miscarrying is “25% at age 35-39, 51% at age 40-44, and 93% at age 45 or older.”
The good news is that the vast majority of women go on to have healthy pregnancies after miscarrying, and for many the first time it happens is the only time it happens.
4) Preconception care should start three months prior to trying to conceive.
The egg that is fertilized at the start of your pregnancy actually began its final maturation process three months beforehand. This is a critical period when most of the chromosomal processing that I mentioned earlier takes place. This means that if you’re thinking of adopting any changes to your diet or lifestyle, including taking a prenatal vitamin, you need to start approximately ninety days before your first baby making cycle.
What can you do to improve egg quality in the three months before ovulation?
- Avoid plastic that contains Bisphenol A (BPA).
- Avoid phthalates and other toxins in your cleaning and personal care products.
- Start taking a high quality prenatal vitamin every day.
- Follow a fertility friendly diet that includes limited amounts of sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
5) The time to see your doctor is BEFORE you start trying to conceive.
We all have health care professionals that we tend to avoid, usually out of fear or previous trauma that might not have anything to do with our current doctors. Nobody likes to get negative test results or find out thattheir body isn’t working as well as it should, but not knowing what’s going on doesn’t actually change the fact that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
If you are thinking of having a baby, you owe it to yourself to get a checkup from your gynecologist three months before you start trying. If there are any underlying conditions that can affect pregnancy outcome such as low vitamin D, an underactive thyroid, or an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) that has gone untreated, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later. Your visit will most likely include bloodwork, a urine test, and depending on how current you are with your annual visits, a physical exam and pap smear as well.
6) There is no way to do everything just right.
We’ve all heard of the friend of a friend who accidentally got pregnant while smoking, drinking, and eating cake for breakfast. We’ve also heard of the friend of a friend who drank green smoothies, went to acupuncture, took a million supplements, and struggled to get pregnant after multiple rounds of IVF.
If there’s one thing that being a Fertility Coach has taught me it’s that we can definitely maximize our chances of conception through diet, lifestyle, and mindset, but there comes a point where destiny takes over and we have to surrender to something greater than ourselves.
Your journey to motherhood may not be what you expected, but be stubborn with your dream and flexible with your methods. Some women will get pregnant on their first try, others may need the help of fertility treatments such as IVF, while others may decide that their best option is using another woman’s eggs.
Our physiology is the same as it ever was, but at least in 2018 our options for how to become mothers are greater than at any time before. The important thing is that we continue to speak openly about our choices because a woman’s fertility is a beautiful thing.
Are you ready to make 2018 the year of your baby bump?
Discover how I prepared myself for pregnancy and conceived my son on the first try! Download my FREE ebook, Your Baby Bump Is Waiting and get my top ten suggestions for improving egg quality, balancing hormones, and letting go of the struggle on your fertility journey.