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.
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.
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!
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?
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.