Monday, October 4, 2010

Conceiving in Your Forties, Naturally

For today's blog, I am honored to have Angel La Liberte write a guest blog for us. Angel La Liberte gave birth to her two children at nearly 42 and 44, after conceiving naturally. She is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40, where she blogs regularly about later life motherhood. She also writes a column for Bay Area Parent magazine and has published a book. For her full bio, visit: You can also email her at Here is her story:

If staving off unwanted pregnancy feels like Russian roulette, then trying to get pregnant in your forties is too much like playing the lottery.

Remember the marketing hack’s slogan “You can’t win if you don’t play!”?

You could almost imagine them leaning over you, wagging an insistent parental finger like a raw breakfast sausage.

In fact, attempting pregnancy after forty was worse than the lottery—not only are your chances weaker than younger women all aglow with the first peachy freshness of budding fertility—but you’re at higher risk for genetic misfires.

And somehow, there is a quantum leap between trying to conceive naturally and going for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).

I remember my first step into the fertility clinic—it was uncharted territory and crossing the line felt like admitting weakness, failure and ineptitude.*

It had to be a kissing cousin to the sinking ship of inferiority men feel when they can’t “get it up”.

It begged the question: Wasn’t there something we could do before throwing our reproductive gear into overdrive by downing Clomid like a used car salesman chugging Pepto-Bismol?

Is there a more natural Love Potion Number 9?

According to naturopathic doctor Ted Butchart, based in Virginia, while ovulation becomes more irregular and there’s a slight increase in genetic risk to our eggs as we age, there is much we can do to optimize our chances—naturally.

“If hormone levels are not well balanced it can become difficult for a fertilized egg to implant, and if Ph levels are well outside normal it becomes difficult for sperm to survive” says Dr. Butchart.

Interestingly, however, he’s quick to point out the tainted ingredients for baby production are not all produced by our aging bodies.

“Often more relevant are changes to the man’s sperm, which can adversely impact the chances of pregnancy” he warns.

“Other problems range from incorrect balances of essential fatty acids, to more complex psychological and spiritual issues as we age.”

But there’s hope and a path forward for those who wish to prepare their baby-making factories for production.

“Clearly there are [natural] therapies that can increase pregnancy rates,” he says.

“Probably the best modality for this is homeopathic treatment. Second in effectiveness would be Naturopathic treatment to improve liver function and the general health of both the mother and her mate.”

Dr Butchart also makes a clear distinction between natural products touted to increase fertility that are often sold online, versus seeking out a trained professional.

“Certainly there are plenty of ‘therapies’ you can find on-line that are perfectly useless, but if a couple consults with a well-experienced homeopath or naturopathic physician they can find well researched and very effective treatments.”

He adds: “Be very wary of any claims for treatments that are supposed to work across the board for everyone. They won’t.”

Yet, many find it hard to take homeopathy seriously, with rumors that success stories are simply the results of a placebo-effect.

“The ill-educated repeat the old saw that homeopathics are a ‘placebo’, but numbers of placebo-controlled, double-blind trials have shown homeopathic treatments to be significantly effective.”

According to Dr. Butchart, part of the need for seeking trained professional help is based on the idiosyncratic nature of our bodies.

“There are no one-size-fits-all homeopathic therapies—they must be specific to the woman,” he stresses.

“Some need hormone balancing, some need adrenal support, some need physical medicine, some need herbs, most need very specific homeopathic treatments.

“Then, Naturopathically, we work with the liver to make sure it is operating in top form. This leads to better hormone control.

On the subject of older mothers in his practice, however, Dr. Butchart cites the looming problem that we all face after a successful pregnancy—it’s critical that every over-40 mom is forewarned.

“The main issues I deal with in the older mother are adrenal exhaustion problems.”

“The older mother often has problems getting the support of her peers, who really don’t want to relive their parenting years, and they often find it hard to relate closely to mothers who are significantly younger than themselves.”

“For these mothers it is crucial that they find and use support and that they avoid becoming too isolated”, he advises.

Wouldn’t it be a tonic if they sold potions in a twin pack? Love potion no. 9 with Sleep no. 10. Oh, yes please!

Notes for this blog:
*Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was already loaded for the delivery room, with Lizzie, but one visit had left a bitter taste behind. I have so much empathy for those who have to go again and again.

Dr. B Butchart, ND, Virginia Natural Health clinics, Charlottesville and Staunton Virginia. Also senior medical adviser to, San Jose, CA.

photo: The author, Angel La Liberte, and her two children.