If you follow my blog then you will know that my fertility journey has not been an easy one.
In a nutshell, we only started trying for babies when I was 38.
I got pregnant straight away. Had a miscarriage.
We tried again, it took over a year, but I got pregnant again.
I had another miscarriage. A nasty one.
In between my two miscarriages I had a lot of tests done and it’s probably worth you reading my blog post for the details: My Miscarriage Nightmares, Rudeness and Age Discrimination.
But in summary, I was unfortunately told (even before key tests results were back) that my chances of getting pregnant naturally were almost nil because of my age.
Now, I accept that trying to get pregnant late 30’s/ early 40’s is much harder than at 25. However, before someone is sent down the expensive rabbit hole of fertility treatments, it ought to be explained that getting pregnant is a LUCK game and unless your AMH is 0 (indicator on the quality and quantity of your eggs) or you have another reproductive issue, it only takes ONE GOOD EGG to be fertilised and BOOM you’ve got a successful pregnancy.
Yes, there are other factors, it’s a complicated process creating a baby, but that it does only take one good egg (for this blog posts let’s assume sperm has been checked and is not an issue).
Now, this was alluded to in my first fertility consultation to be fair, but as time went on my Doctor’s patience was thinning and every consultation became depressing, where he robotically re-laid the stats outlining my next to nothing chance of getting pregnant at 39 by myself.
I get it, time was pressing on and statistically he was right (although I understand the data used in fertility world is based on data taken from France between 1670 and 1830??) BUT what should have been made also consistently very clear was that I could get pregnant naturally if I took the risk and waited.
I’m not one to be defeated and based on my test results (hormone levels and healthy tubes etc.) and lots of research, I knew my husband and I had a chance.
We did, I’m now 22 weeks pregnant and I’ve had no fertility treatments.
Now, before I give you my top 10 tips for getting pregnant naturally, I need to be 100% clear that there is nothing you can do to boost egg reserves and quality. Don’t believe people who tell you they can. Your egg reserves are finite and your egg quality (I don’t believe) can be increased by anything you can do.
However, there are things you can do to improve your overall health and chances of getting pregnant and this is what I did. I also threw in a few herbal remedies that are “supposed” to improve egg quality and reproductive health. My view was, what is the harm in doing them anyway?
So, if you’re ready let me take you through the top 10 things I did to get pregnant naturally:
- Vitamin D
I’m low in Vitamin D because I’m not a massive fan of the sun, but I realised whenever I’ve got pregnant, it’s always been just after summer. So, I did some research on sunlight and the effect on fertility and there have been studies that linked the two. Please read this article in the Independent for more information.
Last summer before I got successfully pregnant, I purposely spent A LOT more time out in the garden sunbathing, plus I made sure my face had 30 minutes of sun exposure per day without sunblock and I also started taking a good quality Vitamin D supplement.
So, get out into the sun more, leave your face or arms exposed for about 30 minutes per day without sunblock and get Vitamin D levels tested. Take a good quality supplement if your low on Vitamin D.
Have regular acupuncture.
Good for general health anyway, but in particular for fertility by:
- Regulating fertility hormones
- Increasing blood flow to reproductive organs
- Counteracting the effects of polycystic ovaries syndrome.
I used to go weekly, but you don’t need to do that. You can go once a month (I think the best time is pre-ovulation) but check with your acupuncture practitioner.
Most acupuncture clinics will also hold what’s called a Multi Bed Clinic, whereby you pay what you can afford (normally a minimum of £20) for a shorter, but just as effective treatment.
Cordy what? Yup, CORDYCEPS. Basically, a mushroom powder, which has been widely used in Chinese herbal medicine for centuries. I was advised to take them by my acupuncturist, who had consulted an herbal medicine practitioner on my behalf. Cordyceps have been used too:
- Protect the liver
- Improve kidney function
- Alleviate respiratory illness
- Enhance libido
- General tonic to help improve stamina, energy endurance, stamina and disrupted sleep patterns.
In terms of fertility benefits, various studies published in medical journals have shown that cordyceps have supported a variety of fertility issues, including poor egg health and sperm health associated with declining age, immune related recurrent miscarriage, antisperm antibodies and PCOS.
I started off with the powder but couldn’t stand the smell! So, I ended up taking 2 x 500 mg tablets 3 x daily. I took the good quality supplement shown in the piccy above.
Again, I was recommended by my acupuncturist to wear a Japanese garment called a Haramaki because she diagnosed that I had a cold uterus. The obvious implications of a cold uterus being that it’s not a hospitable environment to conceive and grow baby. She recommended that I wear a Haramaki which is effectively like a boob tube you wear around your tummy and abdomen to keep that area warm.
I wore one most days and still do whilst I’m pregnant.
I purchased mine from Natures Corner in Newbury.
- Castor Oil Pack
It’s a remedy that’s been around for years and all you need is: organic castor oil (I used Pukka), flannel, hot water bottle and a towel. In summary you place the flannel which has one to two capfuls of castor oil poured onto it, onto your abdomen and place a hot water bottle over the top and lie there for 30 to 45 minutes.
The action of the heat and the castor oil seeping into your abdomen are supposed to detoxify internal organs, stimulate blood circulation and help to heal tissues/organs. It also adds heat to your reproductive area.
You can only apply the pack in the window of time between your period and pre-ovulation. It’s recommended that you do it every day for four consecutive days after period and pre-ovulation, for a maximum of 30 to 45 minutes. Research it yourself and decide which frequency suits you.
Aside from reproductive benefits, it’s an excellent way to relax. I used to lie and listen to a fertility meditation whilst doing it. I would normally do it every other night after my period until estimated ovulation.
- V Steam
If you refer to my blog post on V Steam – Vagina Steaming I give you the full details on what vagina steaming is and how to do it, but in essence (the clue is in the title), I steamed my vagina! The medical profession warns against doing this, particularly if you suffer from certain gynecological issues, however, when I investigated, the principles behind V Steaming they seemed logical, so I thought why not?
I purchased my herbs from Neils Yard and proceeded to steam and it DEFINITELY had an effect on me, not least it was really relaxing.
Read my blog for the full details, but suffice to say if you’re on a fertility journey I would recommend it. I used to do it once or twice a month.
- Auto Immune Diet & Exercise
Clean up your diet and get active. It’s as simple as that.
We know the importance of diet to our overall health, but I wanted to take it one step further. So, under the guidance of a Nutritional Scientist, last summer I embarked on a fairly hard-core auto immune diet and supplementation program for a month. I’m not qualified to talk about the details of the diet (which was also specific to me), but what I can tell you is that the diet loosely followed that of an auto immune diet.
I recommend you do the same for a month and then generally eat healthy, consuming those foods that we know are good for fertility: spinach, honey, bee pollen, lean red meat, garlic etc.
The book that I can recommend for autoimmune recipes is called: the Auto Immune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott.
Exercise, 5 to 6 days a week. Get out into the fresh air regularly, take long walks, get to the gym, do some yoga, whatever takes your fancy, but it’s imperative to move your body!
- Ovulation Ovulation Ovulation
Did you know that there are only about 5 days per month when you actually can get pregnant? Obviously to get pregnant the sperm has to fertilise an egg, but it’s all about timing. Once an egg has been released (ovulation) it can only survive for 12 to 24 hours, therefore it’s vital it’s fertilised by the sperm within that time. As I said above, sperm can survive for up to 5 days in a women’s body (some say 7 days), so sex needs to coincide with these timings, so 5 days before ovulation up to 12 hours (ish) afterwards.
The key to this of course is to understand exactly when you are ovulating. Every fertility doctor I’ve spoken with, doesn’t think the ovulation sticks work (can’t remember why) and recommend having sex every other day after the last day of your period (all fine assuming you don’t get urine infections. I did). Theory being, although generally ovulation occurs on day 14 for the average women, some people ovulation a lot earlier and some a lot later.
Some therapists recommend you monitor your BBT temperature others tell you monitor the discharge in your knickers etc. I tried it all: ovulation sticks, taking my BBT, sex every other day, monitoring ovulation pain, and monitoring my discharge. I found it ALL exhausting.
I think the only scientific test you can do, is to try and get a scan near to supposed ovulation as possible to be sure of ovulation date OR in the absence of this, try a month of using ovulation sticks, monitoring temperature and discharge etc. to establish if you can roughly work it out.
But don’t persist in the ovulation mania, it will drive you mad. In the end, I guestimated my ovulation date based on all of the above and made sure I had sex for every other day for the week proceeding and the approximate date of ovulation. I also monitored when I wanted to have sex because this is obviously a key indicator!
Incidentally, if your prone to urine infections, baby making is a nightmare. So, can I recommend a super effective herbal remedy called D-Mannose. It’s amazing.
- Fertility Conception Supplement
Short and sweet advice for this, but as soon as you make the decision to start trying for a baby, take a good quality fertility conception supplement. A study by Warwick University confirmed women on fertility conception supplements are more likely to conceive and 60% were more likely to remain pregnant than those women who just take folic acid. I took Pro Conception Fertility for Women by Viridian before I got successfully pregnant with the baby I’m now carrying, previously I took another mainstream brand.
- Get Tested
If you’re having problems after a year of trying, then my advice is to get properly tested. Be prepared for the results BUT remember what I said at the beginning.
The fact is, the more you know about the state of your fertility the better. Because if you’re told your AMH is 0.01 then my advice would be different to say someone with an AMH of 7.
Also, get your reproductive system scanned to check for blockages and general health. This will involve having your tubes flushed out which I was told by the doctor is an excellent way to help get pregnant anyway.
Plus get tested for STDS, chlamydia being the main culprit.
There are probably other tests that I’ve forgotten but your doctor will guide you.
It’s worth pointing out how hard it is to get pregnant, even the most fertile couples only have a 25% chance of getting successfully pregnant every month. So, my advice is to expect it to take at least a year (totally normal), but know that it takes some people two to three years to conceive naturally. Again, I think this is a normal (ish) timescale for someone who is older certainly.
Looking back, I’m really proud of my attitude throughout the entire process, yes there were wobbly days, particularly after my second miscarriage, but overall, I kept the faith. I trusted that the right thing would happen to me and it did. It’s easier said than done when you’re going through the process I know, but I think that I am allowed to say keep calm and dare I say it, relax.
I often wanted to scream when someone told me to relax, it’s annoying. However, there is an element of truth in what people say. I found out I was pregnant after deciding we were going to stop. I had let go of the outcome and we had a plan. If by the end of 2017 I wasn’t pregnant then I was going to adopt. In fact, I was excited about adoption. I think this change in attitude really helped.
This is my parting piece of advice actually, be realistic about how long it’s going to take you to get pregnant and make sure you get really fit and healthy before. My opinion is, it can take one to three years to get successfully pregnant naturally. I also recommend you have a conversation with your Partner as soon as you can about your expectations re timings and agree a sensible date as to when you will proceed in a assisted fertility route and then try to let the outcome of getting pregnant go.
I hope this helped you.
ps- listen out for my podcast on Monday 12th February with the UK’s top fertility expert, Dr Gillian Lockwood where she answers literally all the fertility questions you want answers for.
Also, listen to the podcast I did with my acupuncturist Kim Childs on how acupuncture can help with fertility and podcast with my old school friend Michelle Dickson on how she spent ££££ on IVF and then conceived naturally.
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