Hopeful @ Forty

A site for those of us "over 40's" that are looking to conceive after our 'supposed' past-sell-date!

C-Sections, They are a Reality — April 15, 2015

C-Sections, They are a Reality

Woo Hoo!! You go girl. I have the EXACT feeling and outlook as you did. I am only thinking about trying to conceive at the ripe old age of 40 with my hubby…but I want a c-section and I will not be breast feeding either. I find it horrible that ANY takes away…or tries to…your human rights as a person and Mother. I couldn’t agree more….Stop the Bashing and Start the Embracing!

Mom 2 Twins Plus 1

It has been brought to my attention that I need to get back into blogging more. Truth is, I’ve been having a hard time finding inspiration to do so. That is, until this morning when I read this great post about C-Section mamas.  Sure, I could write about my kids every day or how these pregnancy hormones have turned me into this crazy person that I don’t even recognize, but who really wants to read about that.

Truth is, the thought of actual child birth terrifies me!  When it came time to talk about birthing options with my twins, I honestly didn’t have to think twice about having a c-section.  There’s this stigma that you don’t have the same bond with your child if you didn’t actually deliver them.  To that, I say hog-wash!  I can tell you right now, I don’t feel any less of a bond to…

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Why I Chose To Get Pregnant at 52 —

Why I Chose To Get Pregnant at 52

 Why I Chose To Get Pregnant at 52

By Crystal Sirignano

I didn’t plan on being pregnant at 52.  I had my first child when I was 20 and my second child at 22.

I thought my second child, Kendra, would be the second of many children to come.  What I didn’t know was that Kendra would be my last child, and that exactly 30 years after her birth, I would be 34 weeks pregnant with her twins, my grandchildren, at 52 years of age.

My daughter, Kendra, was diagnosed with endometriosis in her teens.  She went through several years of severe pain, surgeries, and the fear of becoming infertile.  After college, she got married at 24 and at age 26 she tried to get pregnant.

That’s when the nightmare began.  She went through 3 years of infertility treatments, including 3 failed IVF’s (costing more than $20K each); and still, no baby.

After the last failed IVF, the doctor told her that the best chance of becoming a mother was to use her frozen embryos and hire a gestational carrier.  I talked my daughter into letting me give it one try as a surrogate to bear my own grandchildren.  After going through a series of tests, and preparing my body for pregnancy, the doctor transferred two embryos.

Even though I was considered high risk at age 52, I had a very successful pregnancy, only suffering with constant nausea, and normal pregnancy issues.

37 weeks later, I delivered my daughter and son-in-law’s healthy twins.  Domenic Jason – 6lbs 11 oz., and Mia Crystal – 5lbs 4oz.  To bring my daughter such happiness was the most rewarding experience of my life.

I wrote a memoir of my amazing experience, Labor of Love.

This is a compelling and emotional story about the bond between a mother and a daughter—one that changed our lives.

Notes for this blog:

Crystal Sirignano, from Grand Blanc, Michigan, is a mother of two grown children, ages 37 and 35, and grandmother of three beautiful grandchildren. She is a personal trainer who owns and operates her own personal training gym.

You can find Crystal at: www.crystalsirignano.com

What Are Your Chances of Getting Pregnant Naturally After 40? —

What Are Your Chances of Getting Pregnant Naturally After 40?

By Jean M. Twenge, author of The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant.If you’re over 40 and worried you’ll never get pregnant, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, most of what you read online and in magazines about fertility after 40 isn’t true, or isn’t relevant.Here’s 10 things you should be aware of regarding natural conception after 40, based on the best data available:
1. Most data on fertility after 40 quoted online (and even in patient guides by doctors) comes from either IVF fertility treatment or from birth records from the 1900 or earlier.
2. You might have read that the chance of pregnancy per cycle is only 5% at age 40. I was never able to locate a source for this statistic, and none of the fertility experts I spoke with knew where it came from. That leads me to believe it’s not true.
3. To my knowledge, there are only two studies of natural fertility after 40 based on women born in the 20th century.
4. Both studies look at women who have already had at least one child. Fertility rates in this group tend to be higher than among those who have never had a child. That may be because among women with even somewhat inconsistent birth control use, some accidental pregnancies would have occurred. If they didn’t, there might be an underlying fertility issue unconnected to age (like blocked tubes or sperm issues). Some speculate that having children could also make women more fertile, but that has not been scientifically proven.
5. A 1985 study found that among women 40 or older who had at least one child, 36% had a baby within 12 months of stopping birth control. That means 1 out of 3 got pregnant with a viable baby within about 3 months. 59% got pregnant within 9 months, 68% within 18 months, and 78% within two years.
6. A 2013 study found that among white women ages 40-43 who had at least one child, 60% got pregnant within 6 months.
7. Recent studies of embryos in IVF cycles find that only 16% of embryos are normal among women ages 40 to 42, and only 8% among those 43 or older. It is not clear if these statistics apply to women trying to conceive naturally.
8. Even if they do, they may not be as discouraging as they sound. 16% is 1 out of 6. It sounds like that means it would take 6 months on average to get pregnant, but it doesn’t. If you assume that getting a normal embryo is random, the statistics are the same as rolling a 6 on 6-sided dice. By 4 rolls, more than 50% of people will have rolled a 6.
9. That means getting pregnant should take about 4 months for those age 40 to 42, IF (big IF) everything else lines up right (for example, having sex at the right time, a partner with a normal sperm count, open tubes, and so on).
10.Especially for women over 40, timing sex is crucial for getting pregnant. For more on that (and lots else!) check out my book The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant. Let’s go roll some 6’s! –Ends–Jean M. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. She is the author of over 100 scientific publications and the books Generation Me, The Narcissism Epidemic (with W. Keith Campbell), and The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant. Her three daughters were born when she was 35, 38, and 40.
Shared From: The Flower Power Mom by Angel La Liberte —

Shared From: The Flower Power Mom by Angel La Liberte

The Flower Power Mom by Angel La Liberte

“The Truth About Motherhood After 40”!

Release: October 26th 2010

THE OVER-40 FERTILITY SQUAD
Fertility tips from expert moms who conceived naturally and gave birth after 40.
Flower Power Mom is pleased to launch the first compendium of natural fertility tips for women over 40 from the experts who have ―walked the talk.

Meet The Over-40 Fertility Squad—six expert moms who conceived naturally, gave birth after 40, and have now joined forces to share their unique fertility wisdom.
Produced by Angel La Liberte, Founder of Flower Power Mom, who conceived naturally and gave birth to her son and daughter at 41 and 44.

Expert #1: Jan Andersen—gave birth to a daughter at 40.
Founder of Mothers Over 40, the UK sister site of Flower Power Mom.
Author of Enhancing Fertility After Age 40.

Tip #1: If you are upset, anxious, and tense or under extreme pressure, your body can release hormones that disrupt the normal functioning of the pituitary gland, which, can disturb the normal menstrual cycle, causing irregular ovulation. Studies have shown that creative visualization or hypnosis can significantly increase your chances of conceiving by reducing these negative effects of stress.

Tip #2: Certain herbal supplements have been known to enhance fertility: Agnus Castus is the most clinically studied herb and is widely used to help regulate the hormones and stimulate ovulation.

The Over 40 Fertility Squad • Page 2
Dong Quai is a Chinese herb that dilates the blood vessels and improves circulation throughout the body, balances estrogen levels, regulates the menstrual cycle and builds a receptive uterine lining to support a developing embryo.

Red Clover is rich in B vitamins, calcium and protein and also helps to detoxify the blood. Up to four cups of the decoction (made from dried, not fresh, blossoms) can be drunk a day, but you may need to take this for some time to reap the full benefits.

Red Raspberry Leaf tones the uterus by making it contract mildly.* Raspberry Leaf works particularly well when combined with Red Clover.

Agnus Castus, Dong Quai and Red Raspberry Leaf should never be taken during pregnancy. Dong Quai should not be taken if you are already taking baby aspirin to thin the blood and reduce clotting.

Red Clover contains blood-thinning properties, so should not therefore be used following surgery or in patients with blood-clotting disorders.

Tip #3: Consider consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner. Optimizing fertility is one of the many benefits of Ayurveda. Some of the foods believed to benefit the reproductive system in Ayurvedic practice are: Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and quinoa, asparagus, broccoli, milk, cream, ghee, rice pudding, seaweed, dates, pomegranates, grapes, papaya, pineapple, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, plums. Herbs: Organic Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Kapikacchu, Gokshura, Bala. Spices: Turmeric, Cumin.

Expert #2: Cindy Bailey, gave birth at 41.Co-author, The Fertile Kitchen® Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Optimizing Your Fertility
http://www.fertilekitchen.com
Read Cindy’s Story.

Tip #1: Eliminate alcohol, which disrupts the absorption of nutrients, weakens the immune system, raises blood sugar levels and increases prolactin levels (which inhibits ovulation).

Tip #2: Eliminate caffeine—not only does it negatively affect fertility, but it increases chances of miscarriage.

Tip #3: Eliminate processed sugar, which negatively affects blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to hormonal imbalance.

Tip #4: Avoid overly processed foods. Most processed foods are full of preservatives, artificial ingredients, saturated fat and/or trans fats, creating a heavy burden on your
digestive system, liver, and overall health—and thereby negatively impacting fertility.

Tip #5: Find healthy ways to manage stress. Stress is fertility’s number one enemy! Healthy ways to manage stress include meditation, yoga, mindfulness and other mind-body therapies. Practice them daily.

Expert #3: Delrae Balgas—Gave birth to a son at 44.
Licensed, Certified Professional Midwife, Orange County, CA. Contact:Deldelivers@aol.com

Tip #1: Maintain a healthy lifestyle including diet and exercise and a normal BMI.

Tip #2: The chances of conceiving are lower as you get older—knowing your body and how your cycle works is really helpful. Pinpointing ovulation and timing intercourse is everything for an older mom.

Tip #3: Some of my moms conceived after a cleansing fast. I think it’s especially important to rid the body of metals and toxins as we get older.

Tip #4: I recommend reading the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler, MPH. (Also recommended by Dr. Natanson, below.)
Expert #4: Maha Al Musa—Gave birth to her daughter at 46.
Founder and Facilitator of Bellydance For Birth—The Al Musa Method®
http://www.bellydanceforbirth.com

Tip #1: Eating a low GI diet is significant because it reduces the fluctuations of blood sugar that can occur when the body is out of balance with a high sugar diet. This imbalance, that sugar can create, adversely affects the hormonal and endocrine system and hence one’s fertility.

Tip #2: If a woman’s partner is also attuned to diet, exercise and a positive outlook in conceiving naturally this can play an enormous role in a positive outcome. When a woman feels supported in the partnership of conceiving she will be more likely to relax into the process which is more beneficial than feeling stressed and isolated.

Tip #3: A loving relationship where both partners deeply care, support and nurture one another can be, in itself, a positive, harmonious medicine for fertility.

Tip #4: Gentle, rhythmic and joyful feminine expressions of exercise like the bellydancebirth® program can help to release “feel good” endorphins that will boost a woman’s inner well being, help to connect to her core feminine nature and release any tensions or stiffness in the pelvic region. The releasing action that is encouraged by this dance form aids good oxygenated blood flow to the pelvic organs that are conducive for conceiving.

Expert #5: Dr. Priscilla Natanson—gave birth at 40.
Naturopathic Doctor, practicing in Seattle, WA:
http://www.SeattleNaturalMedicine.com

Tip #1: Identify and eliminate any food sensitivities. These can increase inflammation in your system and make it harder to get pregnant. Common food sensitivities include: wheat, dairy, soy, eggs & corn – though anyone can be sensitive to anything.

Tip #2: Low thyroid function is a common cause of infertility, so have your thyroid checked – and not just the TSH (the most common thyroid marker). Check the hormones themselves (Free T3 & Free T4) and also to check for autoantibodies to your thyroid (Anti-thyroglobulin/Anti-TG & Anti-thyroid Peroxidase/ Anti-TPO).

Tip #3: Acupuncture – this can be incredibly helpful to prepare your body for pregnancy and is also great throughout pregnancy to help support your body. Make sure you go to a Licensed Acupuncturist who knows how to work with fertility & pregnancy.

Tip #4: Take good quality supplements: A good prenatal, Nordic Naturals Fish Oil capsules (my favorite brand because they are tested free of heavy metals), and Vitamin D if you need it (you can check it with a simple blood test).

Tip #5: Learn to identify your body’s natural fertility signals. Read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler, MPH. (Also recommended by Del Balgas.)

Expert #6: Cynthia Wilson James—gave birth to two daughters at 42 and 44.
Childbirth Educator and Founder of InSeason Mom http://www.inseasonmom.org

Tip #1: Don’t seek approval or validation for your desire. If you are considering motherhood over 40 and can’t help sharing your desire with anyone who will listen, stop it or you’ll end up on an emotional roller coaster. There will be people who applaud your decision to give birth later and those who will tell you outright that you are too old to have a baby.

Tip #2: Guard your thoughts. You cannot prevent people or the media from saying negative things about pregnancy over 40. The key is not in what they say, but in what you believe.
Tip #3: Remain positive by reading supportive literature and visiting supportive websites about pregnancy over 40 and talking with others who have experienced a positive midlife pregnancy.

http://flowerpowermom.com/wordpress/

My c-section confession —
You’re selfish to have a baby at your age! —

You’re selfish to have a baby at your age!

grayhairedmom.com

Although no one has said this to me directly, I know that some people think older women (and it seems  specifically aimed at mothers and not men who become fathers later in life) are selfish to get pregnant after a certain age, that age as determined by the speaker of the sentence. So, are we selfish to have wanted a family at our age? Will our son suffer because his parents are old enough to be his grandparents?

I don’t know. D and I are late bloomers, I think. It took me longer than usual to figure it out, career-wise and relationship-wise. I think of my BFF in college. She looked across the dining hall the first night of school and set eyes of her future husband. She was 17. They are still together and expecting their first granddaughter this fall. Some people figure it out early. Not me.

The…

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Panicking that you are too old to fall pregnant? READ THIS! —
Basal Body Temperatures —
Fertility 101 —

Fertility 101

A woman only knows how fertile she is once she tries to conceive. If you are trying to get pregnant, get to know what factors affect fertility, how to boost yours, and what to do if you’re not succeeding.
 

What Is Fertility?

A woman’s fertility is often taken for granted but 1 in 7 women who try to conceive have trouble. If you are trying to have a baby you probably want to know how to boost your fertility and increase your odds of conception. Some fertility factors are known and within your control but many are unknown and uncontrollable. If you do have difficulty conceiving, don’t beat yourself up – be as healthy as possible but remember too that you have limited control over your own fertility.

What Factors Affect Fertility?

Age A woman’s fertility starts to gradually decline around age 27 and drops off dramatically after age 35. Women in their twenties have a 20 to 25 percent chance of pregnancy each month. At 30, the chance of becoming pregnant in a given month drops to around 15 percent and by 35, the likelihood is less than 10 percent in a given month. A woman is born with all of the eggs she will ever have so as she ages, she has fewer eggs and the percentage of genetically normal eggs declines. Women in their twenties have greater pregnancy odds since they have more eggs and a higher ratio of genetically normal eggs. 

Weight Twelve percent of all infertility can be linked to weighing too much or too little. What is the ideal weight for optimal fertility? According to Harvard researcher and “The Fertility Diet” co-author, Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro, “The ideal BMI is between 20 and 22. Women who are overweight or obese (BMI of higher than 25, and higher than 30, respectively) are at an increased risk for infertility due to anovuation.  Even women who are at the higher end of the normal BMI range tend to have a slightly higher risk of infertility. On the other hand being too lean can also lead to lack of ovulation and infertility.”

A severely underweight woman (with less than 17 percent body fat) may have irregular ovulation, reducing their odds of conception. This is most common in women who are athletes or have an eating disorder. Maintaining a healthy BMI will help you achieve your optimal fertility.

Environment In recent decades, the number of infertile women has risen dramatically. It’s tempting to chalk this up to more women having children later but a US National Survey of Family Growth found that the rate of “impaired fecundity” (difficulty conceiving or carrying a child to term) rose significantly for all ages and the biggest rate increase occurred in women under 25 years old. This indicates that environmental causes may be a factor. There are over 80,000 synthetic chemicals used in everyday products – they permeate our air, water, food, and homes but most of them are untested. Some of these compounds are known to impair fertility in humans and animals – such as perchloroethylene (dry cleaning fluid), phthalates (found in cosmetics, personal care products, and packaging) and BPA (found in plastic bottles, cans, and receipt paper). The impact of our daily exposure to these chemicals is not fully understood but emerging studies suggest a link between environmental toxins and infertility.

Nutrition and Lifestyle It’s not a surprise but poor nutrition, smoking, and alcohol consumption take a toll on women’s (and men’s) fertility. The Nurses’ Health Study, an eight-year study of more than 18,000 women, examined the effect of nutrition on a woman’s fertility.  What it found was that eating lots of easily digestible carbs (like white bread, potatoes, soda) increases the odds of ovulatory infertility, while choosing slowly digestible carbs that are rich in fiber can improve fertility. The study also concluded that getting more protein from plants and less from animals lowers the risk of ovulatory infertility, and that the higher the consumption of trans-fats,  the greater the likelihood of infertility.

Smoking can also delay the time it takes a woman to conceive and increase her risk for miscarriage. And exposure to second-hand smoke can impact infertility just as much as smoking does. For a man, excessive alcohol consumption (two to four drinks per day for over two months) can diminish fertility and for a woman, even moderate drinking can make it harder to get pregnant. Caffeine consumption may also increase the time it takes to conceive – one study showed that women who drank more than one cup of coffee a day were half as likely to become pregnant per cycle compared to women who consumed less.

Emotional Factors Stress can interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant.  It is conventional wisdom but it’s also backed up by research – a recent Ohio State University Medical Center and National Institutes of Health study examined the impact of stress on fertility.  It found that 25 percent of women who had the highest levels of the stress biomarker alpha-amylase had about a 12 percent decrease in the chance of becoming pregnant during each menstrual cycle, as compared with women who had the lowest levels of the stress marker.

A study conducted by the Domar Center at Boston IVF looked at the effect of stress-reduction on fertility. It found that infertile women who underwent a 10-session relaxation training and stress management program had increased pregnancy rates. Fifty five percent of women who participated in the stress-reduction program conceived within one year while only 20 percent of a control group conceived during the same time period.

Alice Domar, author of “Conquering Infertility” and executive director of the Domar Center, was a co-author of the study.  Domar says that stress, anxiety and depression hinder fertility.  “Women who are depressed take longer to get pregnant.” she says. “If you’ve been trying for a while to get pregnant and you’re not, I would say look at your stress level, your anxiety level, and possible depression. Check in with yourself. Most women have a pretty good sense of how they are doing.” She suggests learning stress management skills and potentially seeking the help of a therapist to help treat the anxiety, stress, and/or depression that could hamper your fertility.

Get ways to boost your fertility on the next page.

Boosting Your Fertility

Maintain a healthy weight. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, a BMI of 20 to 24 puts you in the “fertility zone”, the ideal weight for getting pregnant.

Eat a fertility-boosting diet. Chavarro offers these dietary guidelines for optimizing fertility:
• Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid and iron. Folic acid will decrease the risk of birth defects and may influence ovulation and help women get pregnant faster.
• Avoid trans-fats, found in fast food and commercial products.
• Eat more vegetable protein (like beans and nuts) and less animal protein.
• Drink a glass of whole milk or having a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day; temporarily trading in skim milk and low or no-fat dairy products for their full-fat versions.

A healthier diet is also proven to increase sperm quality and motility (ability of sperm to move) so get your partner on board with a healthy diet too. 

Get our recipes for  fertility-boosting meals.

Make healthy lifestyle choices. Exercise, get enough sleep, don’t smoke, and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.

Reduce your stress. Domar suggests that women who are having difficulty conceiving take concrete steps to lower their stress levels, “Pick up a cognitive behavior book which will teach you some stress management skills, see a therapist, or ask your primary care physician for a cognitive behavioral therapist. Get a relaxation CD and listen to it every day. There are a lot of things you can do on your own to reduce your stress.”

Get treatment for depression and/or anxiety. Depression and anxiety are known to hinder fertility. If you are suffering from either of these conditions, talk to your primary care physician to get a referral for treatment.

Reduce your exposure to toxins. Follow these guidelines from RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, to cut down on potential harmful chemicals in your diet and home that may hinder your fertility.

• Avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, dioxin and PCBs (like swordfish and albacore tuna)
• If possible, eat organic. Wash and peel conventional produce before eating to remove pesticides.
• If necessary, filter water at home.
• Reduce or stop using pesticides and herbicides for home, lawn, garden, and pet care. Try non-toxic alternatives.
• Avoid sports/water bottles and other products that contain BPA (Bisphenol A).
• Don’t microwave foods in plastic.
• Use personal care products that are free of phthalates and other harsh chemicals.
• Use a “green” dry cleaning service. If that’s not an option, air out dry-cleaned clothes before bringing them into your car or home.
• Rid your home of indoor air pollutants. Keep your home ventilated, especially when vacuuming, cleaning, painting, or doing anything that stirs up toxins.
• Avoid use of synthetic air fresheners, fabric softeners, and fragrances.

Get a preconception checkup.  Meet with your OB/GYN to get an assessment of your overall health and see if she can help you identify lifestyle changes that could improve your chances of getting pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Ask these questions on your visit.

Increasing your chances of conception

Upping your odds of getting pregnant requires optimizing your fertility and getting  the timing of your um, efforts right. If you were daydreaming in 10th grade bio, brush up on your  ovulation basics. It will also help to learn the  signs of ovulation.

There are lots of tools that can help you track your ovulation. Use our ovulation calendar to find your most fertile days and the best time to TTC (try to conceive), and our fertility chart  to  track the signs of ovulation including your basal body temperature and cervical mucus . If you want to step up your efforts, think about getting an  ovulation predictor kit and read up on our  tips for getting pregnant

When to Seek Treatment

The recommendation from both the American Congress of Obestetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is that women under age 30 try to conceive for 12 months before seeking treatment, and that women over age 30 try for six months before seeking help from a fertility specialist.

However, a new study shows that the majority of women who have not conceived in six months are not likely to conceive by simply trying for another six months. By the end of six months, 56 percent of participants were pregnant. By the end of 12 months, 8 percent were pregnant. Only 15 percent of women got pregnant by trying to conceive for an additional six months. If you have been trying for six months, no matter what your age, it could not hurt to check-in with your OB or a reproductive endocrinologist.

You and your partner should visit a fertility specialist together. Your doctor can give you and your partner a fertility workup, which will start the process of figuring out if either of you has an infertility problem. If a couple is struggling to get pregnant, often the woman assumes that the problem is hers but infertility is an equal opportunity offender — one-third of infertility issues are attributed to women, one-third are attributed to men, and one-third is attributed to a combination of factors.

There are dozens of effective  fertility treatments available and assisted reproductive technology (ART) is always improving. Although 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving, two-thirds of couples that are treated for infertility go on to have babies.

6 Ways To Naturally Boost Your Fertility —

6 Ways To Naturally Boost Your Fertility

6 Ways To Naturally Boost Your Fertility

Read what you can do from home to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

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Photo: Thinkstock

Think fertility is a “you’ve-got-it-or-you-don’t” kind of thing? Think again. There are some simple lifestyle steps that can rev up your fertility… and your chances of getting pregnant.

Start eating for two
You need to nourish yourself before you can begin to nourish a growing baby. In general, good nutrition for your health is going to be good for conception and pregnancy, too. Start by choosing foods rich in whole grains, plus a rainbow’s worth of colorful fruits and vegetables every day. And get the skinny on fats, too, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are components in all cell membranes. Eating salmon one or two times a week, or eggs fortified with DHA (a fatty acid found in fish oil that’s an important component in brain tissue) is a great way to get your omega-3s.  Other fertility-boosting nutrition tips:  Avoid trans fats, try to get protein from vegetable rather than animal sources, and try to consume one serving of full-fat dairy products a day.

The weight to be pregnant
Being significantly under- or overweight can negatively affect your fertility. Women who are underweight—with a body mass index (BMI) lower than 19 Kg/M2—take four times as long to get pregnant as women in the normal range (19 to 24 Kg/M2). On the other hand, women who are overweight may have insulin resistance, meaning that too much insulin circulates in the body, disrupting menstruation. Estrogen production from fat cells can also affect the ovaries and prevent eggs from being released every month. If you’re too thin, gaining as little as five pounds can sometimes be enough to jumpstart ovulation and menstruation. If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your current body weight is often enough to do the same. But now is not the time to try a fad diet. Instead, find healthy eating and exercise habits that will last you through your pregnancy.

Supplements… to be sure
Begin (or continue) taking either a one-a-day type multivitamin or a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid. During the earliest weeks of pregnancy, before you may even realize you’re pregnant, the embryo’s neural tubes (the earliest version of the brain and spinal column) develop. Taking a supplement that contains folic acid will reduce the chance of defects.

Curb caffeine and alcohol intake
Caffeine’s role in fertility is one of those issues that surfaces every couple of years. The research is ongoing, and the verdict is still out. But as of now, most experts agree that as long as you limit your intake to less than 200 milligrams a day (the amount contained in one to two eight-ounce cups of coffee), your fertility shouldn’t be affected. As for alcohol, everyone knows that once you’re pregnant you should give it up. But the effects of moderate intake on fertility are not as well studied. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked with anovulation (no ovulation), amenorrhea (no periods), and abnormalities with the endometrial lining. Alcohol can also alter estrogen and progesterone levels. An occasional glass of wine is unlikely to affect your fertility, but many experts think it’s best to be on the safe side and forego alcohol as soon as you start trying to conceive.

Stay calm
You’ve heard it before but yes, you should work to manage your stress. Stress can increase levels of cortisol [the so-called stress hormone], which can temporarily shut down your reproductive system. And, of course, stress can also affect your relationship with your partner, making intimacy more difficult. Some women find that yoga or meditation helps alleviate anxiety and tension. Others may need professional help to get stress under control.

Kick the habit today
Want a good reason to quit? Women who smoke go through menopause an average of two years earlier than women who don’t. That alone means smoking is toxic to the reproductive system. Smoking is also strongly associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, and women who smoke are more prone to ectopic pregnancies. If your partner smokes, now’s the time for him to quit, too. Not only shouldn’t you be exposed to secondhand smoke while you’re trying to get pregnant, but smoking lowers sperm count and quality. So if you want to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, both of you need to stop—immediately.

Dana Sullivan