Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fertility and Conceiving in Your Forties - Absolutely!

Celine Dion has come out with her story on trying to conceive child number two at 41. She's had four IVF's and is gearing up for a fifth. Some wonder whether that's too much, whether she should just stop, considering the statistics about women being able to conceive (and furthermore give birth to a healthy baby) in their forties. The odds are against her!

OK, first, I want to congratulate Celine on sharing her very private story publicly because by doing so she's helping those that don't have fertility issues better understand how incredibly grueling and sensitive it is to go through such an ordeal. I often refer to Dr. Alice Domar's findings in a Harvard study: Women who want children and are told they can't have them react with the same level of stress and depression as those who are told they have cancer or AIDS. Yes, it's that devastating.

Second, here's what I think about women attempting to conceive in their forties: go for it! Yes, the statistics and odds are against you, but I believe we are not statistics. We are people, individuals, and we do have the power to make a difference in our own health - reproductive and otherwise. We can use mind-body techniques to reduce stress and create calm, we can use visualizations to empower us, and we can eat the right foods to optimize our health. We can do acupuncture, meditate, take herbs and supplements and do yoga. And we can do IVF too if we choose. There is a lot we can do to make a difference for ourselves and set us apart from the average statistic. As a group we even have the power to change the statistics to something more positive over time!

But know up front that trying to conceive in your 40's might not be easy. If it's not, you have to decide for yourself how much you can take, and when enough is truly enough. Unfortunately, there is no formula that says for example if you eat perfectly and have acupuncture, you will get pregnant within 3 IVFs. (I know of a woman who finally got pregnant with her 9th IVF, another with her 11th. They reached their dreams, but I'm sure it cost them a lot. How far do you feel you can go? I believe that decision is up to you and you alone.)

When I was given a 2% chance of conceiving, I made a conscious decision not to listen to that number. It was unacceptable to me that I don't get to have a child, so I set out to do everything in my power to fight the odds. I researched and went on a fertility diet, practiced yoga, meditated, did visualizations and took supplements. I simply flat-out believed I would have a child at some point, and four months later I conceived the old fashion way, at 40. I believed in myself and in my body to make a difference.

Looking back, I did know some of my limits ahead of time. I knew that I would not do more than 2 IVFs. (We couldn't afford them, anyway.) But outside of that I wanted to be able to say I did everything I could, I tried it all. That way, when the time came, I could move forward without regret. Sometimes we don't know our limits, until they're tested. In any case, I feel only you can decide when you've reached them.

So if Celine Dion wants to do yet another IVF (and her husband agrees to it), that's her choice. She's aware of the battle she's facing and she's choosing to fight it. It's a risk, but it's hers to take.

I also wanted to add this reminder: Not all women in their forties have trouble conceiving. I can think of two friends who both got pregnant in their early forties within a few months of trying, and without issue. I know of many more. My grandmother had her 12th child at 45. (In the case of my friends, no one ever told them it might be difficult to conceive. Which reminds me of something I read in one of Dr. Christine Northrup's wonderful books. She said something to the effect of: women in certain villages were getting pregnant into their early 50's. Apparently, she said, no one had told them their eggs were too old. If I remember correctly, she was making a point that if we believe something, such as "our eggs are too old," our minds help to make it true for us, which doesn't help our fertility. The mind is very powerful!) 

The other thing I want to mention is to be wary of statistics. Who are the people that make up the statistic? How are they determined? Be careful when interpreting them, too. One statistic says that a woman who is 40 has a dramatically increased chance of having a genetically abnormal pregnancy, 1 in 38, or almost 3%. Well that means she has a 97% chance of having a healthy, normal pregnancy!! So keep the positive perspective in mind.

Here are a couple of good, inspiring links to check out if you're trying to conceive in your 40's: (there are many!)

Quote from an article by Susun S. Week (famed herbalist and author)

"But more and more women are waiting until their late thirties, early forties, even late forties, to have children. Is this too late? Are these destined to have high-risk pregnancies? Will these children have more birth defects?

The answer to these questions - and others like them - is "no!" for wise women who enlist the help of green allies to increase fertility, ensure conception, prevent birth defects, and promote a healthy pregnancy and an easy delivery."

Infertility in Your 40's Blog - Sandy Robertson's wonderful, inspiring blog

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