Q:I'm a 39-year-old woman, and I've decided I want to have a baby. Is it too late for me?
-Doreen G., Salt Lake City
A: It's definitely not too late, as long as you're healthy. The first order of business is to make sure that you're ovulating. This happens each month in the middle of the menstrual cycle, when a ripened egg is propelled into the uterus where it can be fertilized. If you don't release an egg, no embryo can ensue. There are three signs of ovulation:
- A period of 12-24 hours of clear, stretchy, egg white-like discharge.
- A temperature spike, usually after a slight drop, of at least 3/10s of a degree. Take your basal body temperature every morning before arising, and chart this on a graph.
- Feeling a little extra frisky.
You can also use a drug store ovulation detection kit, which reacts to the estrogen surge, and the excellent iPhone app, Period Tracker, which can help you identify your most fertile days of the month.
If you are ovulating, the next step is to determine the quality of your guy's sperm. Have him undertake a semen analysis at a clinic or hospital lab. Typically, the test isn't very expensive, and it can save you money on costly fertility measures later on.
If your guy has plenty of healthy sperm and you're having sex during ovulation, you'll probably get pregnant within 3-6 months. If not, it's time for the next step. In my opinion that's a saline hysterosalpingogram (HSG), a test that uses salt water to determine whether your fallopian tubes are blocked. What's nifty about this test is that the procedure itself frequently opens up blocked tubes.
If your tubes are open, your guy has good sperm, and you know when you're ovulating, but you're still having difficulty getting pregnant, there could be an immune incompatibility. It's not very common, but sometimes an antibody issue or pH problem can make the vagina "hostile" to sperm. To determine if this is the case, you need to have your doctor swab your vagina within an hour of having sex. If the sperm are still wriggling, there's no problem. If they're not, it's time to consider intrauterine insemination (IUI). It may sound unconventional, but one of the best ways to administer IUI is at home with a turkey baster (or similar tool). It is surprisingly effective. You can also pay a lot more money and have a procedure done at a clinic.
Finally, any woman who's trying to get pregnant should supplement with the following nutrients, which are necessary for healthy ovulation , pregnancy, and baby: folic acid (1 g daily of the methylated form); natural vitamin E (400-800 IU); a high-potency B-complex formula (follow package directions); vitamin C (1-3 g); and red raspberry tea (drink several cups daily). Also: Increase your consumption of yams, which contain natural progesterone precursors, and take evening primrose oil in your third trimester (but not before) to help prepare the cervix.
For you and your mate, it's best to avoid any kind of toxins, whether recreational or legal, for at least half a year before you attempt conception. I did a simple liver cleanse right before my pregnancy. This involved no processed food, no sugar, no alcohol, no coffee, no drugs of any kind, and lots of fresh veggies plus Alaskan salmon and gluten-free whole grains for several months. It felt great-my pregnancy was awesome, and my healthy baby girl was born at home.
Read more about natural solutions for fertility problems on betternutrition.com, including what you can do when the above measures do not work.
Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc, has a private practice in Juneau, Alaska, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is the author of two books on health, including Managing Menopause Naturally. Visit her online at dremilykane.com.