Optimum Fertility…Into Your Forties

optimum fertility into your forties at keeperofthehome.org

By Natalie, Klejwa, Contributing Writer

Because we live in a sin-wrecked world, not everyone will be able to have as many children as they would like. For various reasons that range from unwilling spouses to physical limitations, our families will all be of varying sizes.

One thing we can all say with resounding conviction is that children ARE a blessing. And I know that every one of us is grateful for every blessing that we have been enabled, by God’s grace, to birth and raise.

When I was younger, I hoped for five children. I thought that would make a nice, large family, and that is what I planned for. I’m not really a “kid-lover” by nature. I adore babies and enjoy teens. But children 2-10? Not my comfort zone.

Over the course of the years, through loss, physical issues regarding my pregnancies, almost two years of bed rest, times of severe, debilitating back pain and vascular problems, God opened my eyes to see children from His perspective. Not as personal trophies or pets for my own gratification, but as future God-worshipers, leaders, and Kingdom-builders.

Once I caught that breathtaking vision, He was able to bring me to the place where I could surrender to Him all the troubles that came with raising children. I abandoned myself to His mercy, to give…or take away…as He saw fit. This was a hard and emotional surrendering; but with the end in view, God also gave the faith and hope that I needed to move forward.

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One of my greatest fears in letting go was that I would get to my forties and go through loss after loss, suffering “unnecessary,” ongoing, emotional pain. I was also afraid of my own body, which had let me down so many times in my younger years. I couldn’t imagine how it would hold out as I aged.

I didn’t really see anyone discussing this online–perhaps because it is such a private thing, perhaps because most women in their forties are not interested in having children. Or maybe there really isn’t much anyone wants to share. Or maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.

But I was afraid to walk through it alone.

I decided the only way through it was to forge ahead and take it one year, one month, one week, and sometimes, one day at a time, knowing that God gives grace for today…not for tomorrow.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:34)

Everyone’s experience will be different. God has each of us on His own specialized plan to sanctify us, making us more like His Son. It’s best not to compare our own journey to that of our friend at church. God is tender toward His lambs.

Whatever happens, though it may shock and surprise us…never shocks or surprises Him.

We can rest in His guidance and love, whether we suffer multiple losses, secondary infertility, the heart breaking disappointment of a spouse who would like to avoid future pregnancies, a vasectomy reversal that produces no results, horrific pregnancy symptoms that can seem unbearable at times, or more children than we had thought we could “handle.”

While I had one loss in my 20s and one in my 30s, I’ve had three miscarriages since I turned 40.  I believe they are typical, age-related miscarriages, and there is a likelihood that I will have more before that fertility window closes.

But the vast majority of my fears have not been realized, and God has brought to my attention some scientific, medical information that has been practical and hopeful for women who desire to have children into their forties.

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A Resource to Help

I’d like to introduce you to a resource you may find helpful for a variety of reasons: Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition by Marilyn M. Shannon. I recommend the updated, fourth edition as it has important information on newer medical breakthroughs and discoveries.

This book comprehensively covers everything from good nutrition, overcoming reproductive problems such as PMS, cycle irregularities, polycystic ovary syndrome, and menstrual pain, pregnancy and postpartum nutrition, repeated miscarriage and birth defects, premenopause, perimenopause, and menopause, increasing energy and more. It is a handbook that I’ve owned for well over a year and have referred to often.

No matter what your current age, the information in this post should be helpful for you if you are desiring to have more children. If you are in your forties, it could be critical!

Understanding Fertility

As we age, the quality of our ova (eggs) declines. This can contribute not only to infertility, but to the recurrence of miscarriage. Before an ovum can be fertilized, it must complete a cell division phase called “meiosis I” during the two days just before ovulation.

As the ova age, their ability to do this properly declines, contributing to infertility, early miscarriage without proper development of the newly conceived child, and even Down syndrome. In addition, the reproductive hormones, FSH and LH decline in the early years of premenopause, so that their hormonal “push” of the ovum to complete meiosis I may be insufficient. (Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition, pg. 135)

Do you know that your level of nutrition before you conceive is just as critical as it is after you conceive? You maybe do. But do you know why?

One of the reasons I love this book is because she explains a lot of unknown “whys,” making it more motivating to implement those important changes that could be the difference between a healthy pregnancy and a miscarriage.

What your body needs to make that meiosis I cell division happen properly is adequate progesterone levels as well as nutrients that are known to be important for proper cell division.

If progesterone levels during the second half of the cycle are normal, it is likely that FSH and LH in the first half of the cycle are also normal. Studies cited in Chapters 5 and 7 show that vitamin B6 and vitamin C can raise progesterone levels. Other B vitamins and the mineral magnesium support the activities of vitamin B6. (pg. 135)

The nutrients needed for proper cell division include folic acid, B12, zinc, and the essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3 alpha linolenic acid. According to Shannon, you should be taking in 5-10 grams (5-10 capsules) of flax oil OR fish liver oil from a pure source (1 teaspoon) per day.

You need to take 400 IU of vitamin E as well to prevent the flax or fish oil from oxidizing in your system, rendering the benefits useless. THAT was something I never knew…I took flax supplements…but not with vitamin E. See what a waste we run into when we don’t have the knowledge we need?

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Shannon’s daily recommendations for age-related infertility include the following:

  • Vitamin B6 300 mg
  • Folic Acid 4,000 mcg
  • Vitamin B12 1,000 mcg
  • Vitamin C 1000-1500 mg
  • Vitamin E 400-800 IU
  • Zinc 25-50 mg
  • Flax oil 5-10 g OR Fish liver oil 1 teaspoon (cod liver oil is a healthy choice)
  • Probiotics such as acidophilus

You can buy these kinds of supplements individually or in a combination supplement. Just make sure that the daily overall total is at the levels above.

The author of Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition had her last child two months before she turned 48.

Now let’s touch on age-related miscarriage:

In counseling women in their 40s who would like to have more children despite having had a recent miscarriage, I encourage more than just nutrition. There is a kind of internal courage, an emotional resolve, that is required. That is, if you are hoping to have more children, you need to hold the hope for another child firmly against the pain and fear of another loss. (pg. 168)

This is just the point I was referring to earlier. If you avoid pregnancy, you will not have to suffer a loss. But then you also forgo the  privilege of having another child.

There has been breakthrough research that has shown how the B vitamin folic acid plays a huge role in not only reducing the incidence of neural tube defects, but also of congenital heart defects, oral clefts, limb formation defects, Down syndrome, and even cancers and leukemia.

Here’s what researchers have found:

It is known that folic acid works together with two other B vitamins–vitamin B6 and B12–to reduce the production of the amino acid homocysteine. It is beyond the scope of this book to explain the biochemical details, but in low concentrations homocysteine is normal to the cells. If folic acid especially, or the other two B vitamins are deficient, homocysteine builds up and creates havoc within cells.

For example, it causes problems within the linings of the blood vessels, making it a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This also explains why it is harmful to the placenta, which is a vascular organ. When it comes to pregnancy, homocysteine may be the actual culprit involved with the birth defects listed above, as well as with problems such as abruption of the placenta.

In addition to vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, the mineral zinc works along with folic acid. Vitamin C is necessary for the absorption of folic acid. It may be that several nutrients found in multivitamins together make a difference in preventing birth defects. (pg. 170)

If this is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend that you access a copy of this book.  It is rich with information that is critical for good health whether you are wanting more children or are already in your menopause years.  In addition, check out Three Decades of Fertility, a book written by ten older women who had babies into their 40s. It’s packed with practical wisdom and points to the faithfulness of the Creator.

What are some ways you have prepared your body for optimum fertility?

Disclaimer: Although all Keeper of the Home contributors are passionate about nutrition, natural living and alternative health issues, we are not certified nutritionists, medical doctors, or practitioners of any kind. We are not licensed to counsel anyone in medical matters, nor may we be held responsible for any course of action that you choose in regards to your own health or that of your family. Please remember that what we are sharing is the result of our own experiences and years of study, but may not necessarily be the right course of action for you. We are advocates of becoming informed, knowledgeable and responsible for one’s own health, but our desire is not to be an authority on any matters of health for you, nor would we presume to have sufficient knowledge to do so. Our hope is that what we share may encourage you and start you on the road to doing your own research, and seeking out the opinions of professionals or others that you trust.

About Natalie Klejwa

Natalie is wife to Joe and home educating mother to nine children ages 2-20. When she isn't teaching children, changing diapers, or cleaning the kitchen, she administrates the Visionary Womanhood blog and runs their family's cottage business, Apple Valley Natural Soap. Her latest book project is Three Decades of Fertility.

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Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. I am about to turn 40 in a few days! After six and half years we have decided to try and have a baby. We both have children from previous marriages, the youngest being 16. It is very comforting to hear about other women approaching or in the forties who are having conceiving and having healthy babies. I am a kindergarten teacher but we also live on a small farm raising our own beef, sheep and poultry and we drink raw milk. The desire to switch my family to a whole food diet months ago (my son is autistic and I have many food intolerances) is how I found this site. This site is wonderful and reassures me that I am not alone when I see fast food mamas pumping their children full of convenience foods. I admire the younger women here who are doing theses things in their early years. I am very hopeful that the food changes will help me with my cycles. After the first month, I almost had no cramping at all. My son is also talking more and more focused! My head has stopped burning and my heart palpitations are gone ( unless I eat something I’m not supposed to). I am stronger and healthier at 40 than at 20.

  2. Thank you for this post. I lost my second child in March by miscarriage. The healing process has been long. Although it is my desire to have another baby, I don’t think my heart could handle another loss. I have wanted to learn more about having a healthy pregnancy and child in my forties!

  3. Thank you for this. I would like to learn more about the health of the baby in women over 40 – who, according to stats, are more likely to have babies with health problems like Downs.

  4. Really good article. This I must share with my friends. I never knew about these before. Keep posting articles like these.

  5. Natalie,
    Thank you so much for your post. It was such an encouragement. My husband has had two vasectomy reversals and we have not had the results we desired….babies of course. The words you spoke in the beginning of the post was just a balm to my soul, thank you! We are working on getting our bodies in optimal condition to have children ( I will be reaching 40 in a few years.) but I am mostly trying to get my heart in optimal condition, accepting whatever God brings our way. So often, we like to tell everyone we are open to how many children God wants to bring……..but if He is bringing none, well, that isn’t quite acceptable. We need to be willing to accept whatever He gives. A daily surrender to be sure. We have adopted twice since those reversals……….and those gifts are just as precious as if they had been conceived and birthed from my body. I would not change that for the world.
    Thanks again!

    • Oh Jessica, I pray that God gives you peace and JOY as you surrender to His plans even while doing your best to make it possible to receive another child from Him. And your adoption of two children is heartwarming and inspiring. God has different ways and means of growing our families and impacting the world. Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart…

  6. Hi, the link in your post takes you to a page where you buy the paperback book for $20, but you can find it new elsewhere on Amazon for $16 & free shipping too…

  7. I married later in life but had 3 babies and 2 miscarriages between the ages of 40 & 45. These children are such a blessing. We were trying for 4 but listened to our physician and due to my age and a difficult last pregnancy he advised us to have my tubes tied. Our doctor was retiring and I was the oldest woman he had ever delivered. Back then it was more than a novelty than it is today. Our children are 21, 23, and 25 and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. We homeschooled all of them and they love the Lord and are still at home studying and running small businesses.

    Oh, did I mention what a blessing they are?

  8. For Kimberly Sleeth: you might have an underlying condition like Celiac Diseas that causes anemia. There is a simple blood test for Celiac Disease. I have this condition so I am aware of it. It is also genetically passed on which might explain your daughter’s problem also. If you suspect it, get the blood test before going gluten free as it will misconstrue the results if you are gluten free when taking the test. The anemia clears up when on the gluten free diet. Women with this condition often have miscarriages.

  9. Thank you for writing this! The first part of your post was like reading my own heart. God has changed my heart from wanting kids for my own needs, to seeing my kids as a burden, to finally showing me that my kids are future worshipers of the King of Kings and they truly are a blessing. God changed both my heart and my husbands to finally bring us to a place of trusting Him with the number of children we would have only to find out that after 9 years of being quite fertile I now have PCOS. It made me realize I had only trusted God with having more children but not with the possiblity of having no more. Another journey of the heart and I can finally say I am finding joy in whatever the circumstances of life. But, I am interested to check out that book you recommend. Several friends have said that PCOS can be reversed with diet changes….

    • “It made me realize I had only trusted God with having more children but not with the possibility of having no more. Another journey of the heart and I can finally say I am finding joy in whatever the circumstances of life.”
      Ah….this is a beautiful place to be. Hard to get there though…and a daily “surrender.” I pray God continues to give you joy and PEACE as you rest in His plans for your family. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I think focusing on the nutrient dense foods that were favored in traditional peoples is a huge factor too! :) The healthier the gut is the more nutrients your body can get from everything you’re eating. :) I recommend the Weston A Price Foundation site for info about the “sacred” foods of traditional peoples- the ones they saved for childbearing men and women. :)

  11. My dear friend had baby last week. She is 43. She was on GAPS before pregnancy and said she felt healthier than she had during her other two pregnancies in her mid 30s. Last week she delivered naturally beautifully healthy baby boy with Down syndrome. It has been a tough week, but, praise God, he does NOT have heart defects (as do nearly 50% of all Downs babies). The family has even received some encouraging information about how diet can play a huge role in Down syndrome kids developing more normally. I don’t know if I would be open to having babies in my 40s as I struggle with health issues in my early 30s, but I do want several more children. We will see what God has planned!

  12. Another great resource is http://www.naturallyknockedup.com/ The book is aimed at men and women of all ages. Our hormones do much more than provide fertility, so the information on healing through nutrition applies to us all.

  13. couples the “pray” not “pry” together!

  14. Hello,
    I’m so pleasantly surprised to see you promote a book created by the Couple to Couple League! The divorce rate among couple that pry together and practice Natural Family Planning (NFP) is less than 2%!!!! My husband and I have practiced NFP from day 1, very successfully. It’s more popular among Catholic Christians than Protestant Christians, but regardless, it is a Christ-based, natural, and VERY successful approach. It’s important for us to remember that God is the author of life, and He knows better than I do whether it’s right for me to have a child now. I can be involved in the conversation of course, but God makes the final decision!

  15. Kimberly Sleeth says:

    This question is actually for Stephanie, but I welcome any tips that anyone has as well!
    I was wondering if you had any posts or information on anemia. I did a search but nothing came up.
    I suffer from anemia during pregnancy, and my last pregnancy was the worst. I had a home birth, and afterwards I couldn’t stand up without oxygen. It took weeks for me to able to walk across the house without my heart pounding and being very short of breath.
    The problem was not bleeding too much, as my bleeding was quite minimal, but I was anemic before the birth and even that minimal blood loss caused it to be too much. My iron levels at 4 weeks postpartum were an 8! I took a strong supplement, along with chlorophyll and ate more heme iron as I could. My iron levels were almost back to normal in a couple of months. Well, while nursing it seems to come and go. I’ll feel great for a while and then the anemia comes back (although not as bad as after the birth of course). I take an herbal iron supplement but I want to be able to get all the iron I need nutritionally! We eat very little meat. We eat 1 lb of chicken, some tuna, and 1 lb of beef per every 2 WEEKS. We are on a tight budget, and the grassfed/organic meat is just too much. We did recently order 20 lbs coming in December so we’ll be able to up my beef intake then…but when that runs out we’re back to the random amounts.
    I always think I do a great job of serving healthy organic meals for our family (of 7) but apparently not. My daughter (12) suffers from a much milder form of anemia as well. I’d love to be able to have some information about serving meals that contain enough iron so that we can stop having this problem. :( I’ve been tested several times and it’s not a B12 issue. It’s usually only when pregnant or nursing, though it has crept up at other times because of the lack of iron in my diet. I”m apparently failing at keeping a budget and providing the right amount of nutrients. :(

    • Don’t be hard on yourself, ok? :) It sounds like you’re really aware of the issue and that you’re doing all the right things as far as supplements, but sometimes they just can’t be the real thing (ie. meat). That really is a very small amount of meat to be eating, particularly in child-bearing years. If it comes down to eating grass-fed meats and not eating meat at all, given your health issues (and your daughters) then I would say just eat meat. Period. Even if you can’t afford the good stuff, I think in your case it’s better to eat it (particularly red meat) than to not eat it at all. Another consideration is liver. Even grass-fed liver is quite cheap compared to the nutritional punch that it packs. I can get grass-fed liver locally for just a few dollars per lb. Even buying 1-2 lbs of liver per month and adding that creatively to your meals (you can grind it and mix it in with beans or with ground beef or just find really tasty ways to cook it every once in a while- for us, breaded and fried works best :). Liver will really help you to up your liver, and just offers a lot nutritionally in general. I think it’s really important for those who can’t get enough good meat in general, because it gives you such a boost. Here is a post with some tips on how to prepare liver to make it easier to eat- http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2011/04/liver-learning-to-love-and-cook-this-superfood.html.

  16. Kimberly Sleeth says:

    I am not in my 40′s yet (I am 31), but I want to prepare my body for any future pregnancies! Thank you for sharing this. :)

  17. Kimberly Sleeth says:

    I am not in my 40′s yet (I am 31), but I want to prepare my body for any future pregnancies! Thank you for sharing this. :)

  18. Alana Dalene says:

    Thank you for this post, Natalie. I am 45, and, although my husband had a vasectomy, God has turned my heart to desire more children, both by birth and by adoption. I’m praying God changes my husband’s heart to desire a larger family for His glory. :) It’s so good to know that there are mom’s my age that have new babies. Our society tells us we shouldn’t have them after a certain age. I’m finally realizing that it is not up to society, but up to our awesome God! :D

  19. Jennifer S. says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am due with my eighth child in a few weeks and soon after will turn 44. All my pregnancies have been straightforward but this one took a turn about four weeks ago so that I am now on almost total bedrest. And yet. I still want more babies. I know people are going to think I’m crazy when this baby reaches toddlerhood and I’m aching for another little one. We have always used supplements and eaten as healthy as possible. I am going to be looking into this more though as I consider the possibility of another baby as God allows. Sometimes I feel lonely as a mother because no one around me has eight children much less a baby at 44. This post helped me to not feel alone. It was just what I needed. Thank you.

    • Oh Jennifer, you are NOT alone. I think I’m spoiled because I know so many large families locally, and many of my friends have multiple children, both biological and adopted. There are thousands and thousands of large families scattered throughout our country. I just turned 46…my youngest is 9 months…and I’m already hoping and praying God will give us “just one more. Oh PAALEEEEEASE!” : )

    • Alana Dalene says:

      Jennifer, I don’t know where you live, but I live near Portland Oregon. I myself only have 2 kids, so far. But I have one friend in her 40′s who’s got 7 kids, and one friend also in her 40′s who’s got 8 kids, almost 9. And when I go to the annual homeschool conference in Portland, there are LOTS of LARGE families! :D I’ll be praying that you find the encouragement you need. Blessings.

  20. I have had one baby in my 40s after a miscarriage. I’ve learned so much! Recurrent miscarriages are often a sign of genetic issues. After 3 normal pregnancies, this pregnancy was a roller coater. One out of the 5 doctors in the practice reluctantly did a “miscarriage” blood panel and showed I have 2 anamolies. These genetic mutations don’t get “turned on” till after 35 in most women. I think mine did after my celiac diagnosis ( which also contributes to infertility and loss). The mutations are Factor V Leiden and MTHFR. With the MTHFR, you can NOT break down frolic acid &you have a shortage of B vitamins to make it simple. You have to take bio-available forms like methyl-folate. If you don’t take the appropriate form, it can cause a miscarriage. I had never heard of this till last year during my own pregnancy & felt compelled to share. Hope this is helpful.

    • Thank you for this information Betty. It’s amazing how much there is to learn…some of it we only “get” through experience. I appreciate your taking the time to pass on what you’ve learned.