I never thought I would be a mother. When I turned 40, I had been without a relationship of any kind for nearly 3 years and saw no prospect of that changing. Without a great sense of that birthday being a milestone, I had quietly reconciled myself to being childless.
A year later, I met my partner Neil. Like me, he had never been married or had children. In the past, once I felt a relationship had long-term potential, I had always gone on the pill. At 41, I found I just couldn't do this - it was no longer a question of 'not now' but a question of 'not ever'. Neil and I discussed this and agreed to let nature take its course. I'd heard a lot about the big decrease in fertility after 40 so I didn't think I was likely to get pregnant.
We didn't actively try to get pregnant and even made an effort to avoid 'fertile' times. So it was a bit of a surprise when, a few months later, I realised it had been about six weeks since my last period. Two pregnancy tests 3 days apart were positive and my GP confirmed the pregnancy. At this stage, Neil and I hadn't made any definite long-term plans. We weren't even living together. We were in equal measure thrilled and terrified. But neither of us had any hesitation about wanting to have the baby.
I had the CVS procedure where a sample of the placenta is removed under ultrasound and the cells cultured and examined. I was so focused on the test, that I had almost overlooked the ultrasound side of it and hadn't taken in that this would be the first time I would 'see' my baby. I don't think I really believed I was pregnant. I hadn't had any morning sickness and didn't feel any different. The ultrasound made it real. It also made me realise how hard it would be to lose a child.
It takes 2 weeks to get CVS results and I swear those were the longest 2 weeks of my life. But the news was good. Everything looked normal.
Because of the CVS, we were able to be 100% certain of the baby's sex, though we chose not to find out till the 20-week ultrasound. But even before that, I had a strong feeling that it would be a girl and named her Lucy.
I had a blessed pregnancy. I never had any morning sickness. I had a nice compact 'bump' and my energy was good right through to the end. I stayed fairly active, doing lots of walking and continuing to use the stairs at work rather than the lift! Neil was fascinated by the changes in my body and people at my work were really supportive. I found that being an older mother held a peculiar fascination for others and they were quite delighted by the idea. I felt special and that was really nice.
I had registered with a family birth centre at one of the big teaching hospitals in Melbourne, wanting the birth process to be as natural as possible without taking any unnecessary risks. As it turned out, Lucy was in no hurry to enter the world and I ended up having to be induced and so gave birth in a regular labour ward. We got stuck in second stage and ended with a ventouse delivery. Far from the intimate experience I had envisaged just me, Neil and a midwife - there were no less than 11 people in the delivery room when Lucy finally arrived. And it didn't matter a bit. I didn't feel intimidated because all along they took the trouble to explain what they were doing and why and to consult me on my wishes.
Lucy is now 11 weeks old and has been a delight. She is an easy baby, sleeping well, feeding well (after a slow start) and very adaptable. We can go out for a meal and take her with us and she will usually sleep right through it. The first time she 'spoke' to me, looking at me and smiling and making little cooing noises, my heart dissolved. It was such a magic moment. I never realised how fascinating new babies were, how captivating the little changes that each day brings can be.
I've recovered well physically. I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight, though there are still a few clothes still won't do up found the waist! I get enough sleep - I could handle more, but I get enough. I probably don't have as much energy as younger mothers, but nor do I have such high expectations. I don't push myself too hard and I don't hesitate to tell visitors it's not a good time to call if I feel too tired to cope with them. I'm already back at work four mornings a week for financial and job security reasons. It's not ideal, but I can work at home which makes it much easier.
I will be 43 next week. A year ago, I thought menopause was more likely than pregnancy. I'm glad I was wrong.
I wanted to share my story because there are too many negative images of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, especially for older mothers. When I was pregnant, I surfed the net and found a story from a mother who had her first child at 46 with a trouble-free pregnancy and birth. That positive account really lifted my spirits.
I know I have been lucky. I feel incredibly blessed. But I also feel that it was meant to be. There are a lot of positive stories out there. Don't be intimidated by the negative ones.
I am 43 at present, turn 44 next March and I have just completed a 4 months pre-conception health care program with a Natural Fertility Management Centre. I have a gorgeous 7 year old boy and my desire is to have another child with my new partner.
We decided to start trying about 18 months ago, I had a progesterone implant removed and had also had Depro shots for about 9 months before that. My G.P. told me to take Folic acid for 4 weeks and then I could try and conceive, she was doubtful that I would have any success because of my age.
I was happy to report that I did fall pregnant in my 2nd cycle. I had been a heavy smoker and drinker and only stopped these habits when I had a positive pregnancy test. I was excited and told everybody that I was pregnant and gave up smoking and drinking! Unfortunately I miscarried at 7 weeks 4 days, which I discovered at my first OB appointment. There was no heart beat detected. I went on to have a D & C the next day and my OB said that we should wait one cycle then I would be fine to attempt another conception. We did and sure enough fell pregnant again about 2 cycles after the first m/c. This pregnancy m/c at 6 weeks but never felt right from the day I found out. I was devastated and felt that I was a complete failure and I wanted to know why I had these miscarriages was it my age (chromosomal) or
was it my lifestyle pre-pregnancy?? I found a book called "Better way to better babies" author Francesca Neish, publisher Random House Australia. I read from cover to cover and felt inspired to follow their program.
The Foresight Program in the U.K. is what this Natural Fertility program is based on. 4 months of pre-conception healthcare, diet (healthy fresh food), drink > purified water, exercise daily, eliminate stress and take vitamin/supplements and herbal remedies (dependent on your
needs). Tests for all GUI infections that can cause miscarriage, blood tests for hormone levels and sperm anti-bodies. Also chart your cycles with BBT and mucus for 3 -4 cycles before you attempt conception. This means that you can be more accurate with your timing and maximise your chances. Timing to have intercourse 24 hours before ovulation. Ovulation has taken place once your mucus changes from wet/spinn to pasty. Usually you will also see a
rise in BBT temp on the day of ovulation (it is difficult to pin-point exactly) also mid cycle pain can help to indicate ovulation. What you want to aim for is a new egg with fresh sperm waiting.
I followed their program and noticed changes in my mucus. It became more healthy and plentiful meaning that my oestrogen levels were good and this was balanced through the herbal remedy that I was taking. I felt very confident and excited but didn't really think that I would conceive so quickly. I am thrilled and happy because I am in a better position now than I was 18 months ago. My body is prepared and so is my mind. I will take it easy and I look forward to having a beautiful healthy baby.
I would highly recommend pre-conception health care for both parents. You feel better in yourself for making a conscious change for better health and you will really improve your chances of having a healthy full term baby, even over the ripe old age of 40.
Baby at 46 - Penny Cohen, Guildford, England
After several months trying to get pregnant in 2002 we 'gave up' and left it to fate. I changed my lifestyle from 45 hours work a week to 20 hours/week and lo and behold, baby. We decided not to have any invasive tests and in any case would have been happy with a DS baby (as it turned out Alex did not have DS anyway). I was able to request a CS following a consultancy at the National as I have FSP, which affects pushing ability amongst other muscle-related activities. Everyone associated with the Royal Surrey and NCT were very helpful with the pregnancy and delivery and non-judgemental about the CS. I probably will not be trying for a second child though, even though my husband Daniel would like a girl
Penny with baby Alexander
Liz Thomas, 43, UK
I am 43 and have a naturally conceived 6 year old Daughter and been actively trying for number 2 since 2001. I am delighted to find a site such as this and I thought it might be of interest or help to someone, somewhere if I pass on what I have learned on my journey towards another conception.
I have not touched alcohol since 2001 except the odd glass here or there on a special occasion. I eat a near 'perfect' diet i.e no dairy, no wheat, no caffeine. I have had 12 months of acupuncture treatments, 7 of which were bi weekly with a woman (Toni Tucker) affiliated with the Zeta West clinic. I have taken herbal medicine for hormonal balance (prescribed by a Medical herbalist). I have had iridology and done detox diets and juicing prescribed by Kitty at The Kitty Campion clinic (another famous natural fertility specialist). There has been sessions with Marisa Peer , hypnotherapist currently appearing on Celebrity Fit Club. I have had over 250 pounds worth of blood analyses to determine any deficiencies or gut permeability problems with nutritionist Kate Neil, co author with Patrick Holford of 'Balancing Hormones Naturally' and I have even done a 10 day residential 'Hoffman' course to deal with any childhood psychological problems that may be preventing me from conceiving. (I mention the names of these people to illustrate that I have attempted at all junctures to use people regarded as being the top people in their field with regard to success rates in treating infertility).
This is not the end , there's the kinesiology, the Tibetan Dr , the .....Oh for gosh sake, I think you are getting the picture of my dedication and singlemindedness in pursuit of another baby! However, none of it has worked. Running concurrently with the regime described above I have endured 10 IUI's. 2 IVF's and 1 ICSI in which I have learned from the clinics that I still have an excellent fertility/hormonal work up. Here's the rub though, it is my husband who has fluctuating sperm morphology (that's shape, not amount or motility) so at different stages in the above treatments we resorted to donor insemination - and it still didn't work.
I am in no way saying that these specialists can't help optimise your fertility but it just didn't work for me.The one thing that I can pinpoint as lacking in my life has been the ability to just relax, go with the flow and to trust that I can get pregnant at 43. Instead I have tried to control every step of the way and listened to too many negative statistics. When I conceived before I was 'normal', infact I was drunk as a skunk on my husbands 40th birthday on the night of conception. Now my life has become a joyless round of watching what I eat and drink to the point that I feel like I have an eating disorder. Yes, I have to admit that the great nutrition and all the therapies may be why my FSH levels and blood flow are still so great but nothing, not even the purest sourced Vitex, has stopped my progesterone dropping at day 25 since age 41 (technically known as luteul phase insufficiency common after age 40) resulting in a period.
So, my advice is eat sensibly, don't smoke, cut down on caffeine and alcohol (will someone please tell me why fertility centres have coffee machines when caffeine has been proven to lower chances of conception?) and perhaps invest in vitamin and mineral deficiency tests but, above all, don't get caught on this infertility 'cure' treadmill as it robs you of the energy and joy that is life itself.
One other interesting piece of info I have learned on the rounds at the clinics is that after 40 if your cycle has shortened, you need to supplement progesterone from the day after ovulation until the 12th week of pregnancy. It is only when the placenta takes over in the 12th week that your body can produce enough progesterone to support a pregnancy. Until the 12th week progesterone is made by the Corpus Luteum which notoriously slows down its productions as we age. Miscarriages may occur due to many factors but low progesterone levels is one of the major ones after 40. Many clinics use Cyclogest pessaries 400mg twice a day. Even if you don't have a shortened cycle, if you conceive, check with a fertility specialist - not your GP - about supplementation. It could just save your baby.