Am I Too Old To Have a Baby? Some Thoughts from the East and the West

Sometimes we hear that biological clock pounding so loudly that it’s hard to ignore. If you’ve opted to wait for some, Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich, authors of Feed Your Fertility, have have some great insight into some of the concerns that people have.


These days, many women earn graduate degrees, pursue careers, or simply wait for the right partner before settling down to get married and/or have families.

While we’re all for women’s rights, there is one unfortunate hitch in this plan: biology. Realistically, many women in their 40s will have a heck of a time getting pregnant because that’s how most of us are genetically programmed. Painful as it might be, it’s helpful to consider that women who conceive naturally later in life are the exception to the rule—outliers, if you will.

If you are struggling with fertility in your late 30s or 40s, you don’t have a disease. Your body is going through the normal functions associated with your age. Despite the inevitable aging timeline, there are ways via both science and nature to improve your pregnancy odds.

Silhouette_or_a_pregnant_woman_and_her_partner-14Aug2011

Photo by Nina Matthews courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

What the West Says

The media shows us attractive women in their late 40s happily pushing infant twins in a stroller on the way to the park and presents research indicating that older women will have smarter and healthier babies. What tabloids don’t reveal, however, is how many cycles of IVF failed before a successful pregnancy occurred, how much medication the mother needed to inject and ingest, how many tens of thousands of dollars had been spent, and if these babies were born via donor egg, donor sperm, and/or a gestational carrier to host the pregnancy.

Reproductive medicine can be a miracle of science, but it is an extremely expensive (and often emotionally draining) miracle, yielding lower and lower margins of success with each passing year of age.

That said, we believe that knowledge is power. We recommend that all women over the age of 40 who have been trying for more than three months seek a Western workup with a reproductive endocrinologist to rule out potential obstacles to conception—whether hormonal or structural. It is better to do this at the outset, rather than allowing precious time to go by.

Some conditions (such as fibroid removal) can take several months in the healing process, so determining and treating any issues detracting from your fertility right away may make a big difference in your success.

Genetics and Epigenetics: Why Some “Older” Women Can Conceive and Others Cannot

How long we are able to procreate is different for every person. Just because your best friend’s sister-in-law’s cousin got pregnant at 48 doesn’t mean we all can. Trying to change your genetics around your fertility is as futile as trying to have blue eyes just because someone else does.

What we can influence, however, is epigenetics. Epigenetics is defined as the way our genes express themselves. This emerging field is providing more and more evidence that the things we do, like how we eat, think, and feel, can actually influence the way our genetic predispositions play out. For example, just because you have a family history of breast cancer doesn’t mean you are doomed to develop this disease yourself.

Likewise, while your waning fertility may be a natural part of your genetic programming, you can slow this process a bit and optimize pregnancy outcomes by making smart choices in how you choose to live your life.

Changing your diet, lifestyle habits, self-care routines, and stress levels can go a long way toward turning back the biological clock. Regardless of whether or not you end up having a biological child, these methods will only bring you better health and vitality, which is what you need to be a parent, biological or otherwise.

What the East Says

While Western medicine has very little to offer in terms of turning back your biological clock, Chinese medicine can help to breathe hope and inspiration into the space where your odds seem to decline with each passing month. Chinese medical texts say that pregnancy should be possible from the onset of our first period (menarche) through the very last (menopause).

With that in mind, let’s examine how Chinese medicine can help to optimize fertility through influencing epigenetics well into your later reproductive years.

Depending on a woman’s reproductive profile, Chinese medicine can often dramatically slow down and sometimes even reverse ovarian decline. We have personally assisted many patients with “rebooting” their ovaries, which can increase follicle count, improve responses to fertility drugs, and result in more pregnancies (natural or assisted) and fewer miscarriages.

Having a healthy, regular menstrual cycle is the cornerstone of improving fertility health, and Chinese medicine shines when it comes to this. Using herbs and acupuncture to regulate and support the cycle, women may find themselves ovulating and menstruating more regularly, experiencing less pain and clotting, feeling less PMS, having better cervical fluid at ovulation, and experiencing an improved libido.

Beyond the mere functionality of your reproductive organs and hormones, Chinese medicine can help you to cultivate fertility in your entire being, so that you can approach your baby-making journey from a place of feeling already fulfilled by your life, rather than trying to fill an empty space in your heart with a baby.


Feed Your Fertility

Do you want to make a healthy baby and have a healthy pregnancy?

Are you interested in a holistic approach to fertility?

Do you need to optimize your fertility due to your age or health conditions?

Are you trying to conceive and experiencing challenges?

Very few women and men expect to have trouble when it comes to having a family, and coming up against obstacles can bring about epic levels of stress. Deciding what steps to take can be absolutely baffling.

The good news is that Feed Your Fertility is here to help you. Inside, fertility professionals and authors Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich will guide you on a path to making the nutritional and lifestyle changes you need to help support healthy fertility and pregnancy. Inside you’ll learn:

How your lifestyle may be inhibiting your ability to conceive – and what to do about it

Why popular fertility diets may be leading you down the wrong road

What foods to eat to optimize and nourish your fertility, and how to adopt a real foods diet

How to determine your personal health imbalances that may be interfering with your fertility

How to use Chinese medicine to bring your body into balance and improve your odds of conception

How to streamline your supplements and take only what you really need

Your natural and medical treatment options for common fertility issues

How to navigate the medical fertility world and when to seek help

Get your pregnancy on track the natural, time-tested way and enjoy your journey to motherhood with Feed Your Fertility.

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Have a Green Day to Teach Your Family About Environmental Awareness

As parents, you may be looking for ways to get your kids outdoors and moving. Tim and Kerry Meek have a great idea in their fun new book, 100 Family Adventures, that will also get your kids thinking about the environment and living green. 


DO ALL YOU CAN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT IN ONE DAY

Milk_Containers_For_Recycling_Chobham_Village_Surrey_UK

This is more of a challenge than an adventure, perhaps, but sometimes making a simple change to our everyday habits and lifestyle choices tests our powers of resilience and determination as much as any physical challenge may do.

Environmental issues such as global warming, rising seas levels and green energy regularly appear in the news. Nowadays people are becoming more aware of the issues, but little is being done to combat them.

World Environment Day has been celebrating on 5 June every year since 1973. It aims to raise awareness of environmental issues that are affecting the planet. Earth Day is another annual event that is celebrated on 22 April. People all over the world celebrate and hold events to promote respect for the Earth’s environment.

So, you could hold your own ‘Green Day,’ in which you promote green issues at your own local level.

ACTIVITIES TO DO ON YOUR GREEN DAY:

  • Plant trees–simply plant a tree in your garden or school, or offer to help planting trees at an organized event
  • Pick up litter in the local area
  • Switch off lights and electrical appliances that aren’t being used
  • Recycle and reuse materials–promote this by creating posters for your local area
  • Only buy and eat locally grown produce
  • Don’t use the car or any vehicle for the day;instead, walk, scooter or cycle everywhere

TIPS AND CONSIDERATIONS:

  • Choose a theme for your ‘Green Day;’ focus on one key issue, such as water. Million of people die each year from water shortages, lack of sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses; these deaths happen mainly in developing countries. We take water for granted and use it without thinking. During your ‘Green Day,’ make a concerted effort to become aware of how much water you use
  • Turn off the taps when brushing your teeth
  • Collect rainwater in an outdoor [container]
  • Have a shower, not a bath. If you have a shower, try to see how quick you can be (under four minutes)
  • Use a plug in the sink when washing your face or shaving
  • Use a bowl for washing food and vegetables, then use the same water to rinse out cans, jars and bottles for recycling
  • Only use the dishwasher when it’s full
  • Place a Save-a-flush bag in your toilet cistern to reduce the amount of water used for flushing

100FamilyAdventures

100 FAMILY ADVENTURES

Childhood obesity is increasing year on year. Happiness and well-being levels in children are on the decline too. Children spend less time outside and more time in front of screens: computers, phones, games, television.

100 Family Adventures provides a valuable resource bank of tried and tested outdoor activities to enjoy with children, swapping ‘screen time’ for ‘green time’. Particularly inspiring for people who want to get started, but don’t know how, the book shows how any family, anywhere in the country, can enjoy time together outdoors.

Activities are grouped into themes: Woodland, Water, Close to Home, Hills and Mountains, Exploring, By the Sea, Extreme Weather. Within each section is a range in difficulty, from making a rope swing to scrambling up a stream, from spending a day without electricity to going on a charity bike ride, from exploring a rockpool to camping on an uninhabited island.

Packed with inspiring photos, sensible but enthusiastic instructions from parents Tim and Kerry combine with remarks and advice (and jokes!) from children Amy and Ella.

Fertility Troubles? Know When to Get a Semen Analysis

When trying to grow your family, it is not uncommon to hit a few bumps along the way. There can be many reasons why a couple can have trouble when trying to conceive. Discover what Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich, authors of Feed Your Fertility, have to say about male factor infertility and what you and your partner can do.


 

Approximately 30 percent of infertility cases are due to sperm issues, also called male factor infertility. The most obvious indication of male infertility is a prolonged period of unprotected intercourse without conceiving a child. For most men, there are no obvious signs and symptoms, and the news that their swimmers are not top notch often comes as quite a shock.

What the West Says

Sometimes underlying problems such as genetic or structural issues that might prevent the passage of sperm, or hormone imbalances, come with signs and symptoms. These may include the following:

  • Infertility, or the inability to conceive a child
  • Erectile dysfunction or problems with ejaculationIllustratedPregnancy
  • Loss of or reduction in facial or body hair (signifying hormonal imbalances)
  • Pain, swelling, or lumps in or around the testicles
  • Low sperm count, volume or motility, or poor morphology
  • Risk factors for sperm issues include the following:
  • Using alcohol, tobacco, and certain illegal drugs
  • Being overweight
  • Having certain past or present infections
  • Being exposed to toxins
  • Overheating the testicles
  • Having a prior vasectomy or vasectomy reversal
  • Being born with a fertility disorder or having a blood relative with a fertility disorder
  • Having certain medical conditions, including tumors and chronic illnesses
  • Taking certain medications or undergoing medical treatments, such as surgery or radiation used for treating cancer
  • Performing certain prolonged activities such as bicycling or horseback riding, especially on a hard seat or poorly adjusted bicycle

When to Get a Semen Analysis

In our experience, most men don’t find out their sperm is less than superior until they’ve been trying to conceive for a while and their partners take it upon themselves to seek medical care: A semen analysis is part of the workup. Aside from any emotional stress involved, a semen analysis can never hurt, and it’s not a bad idea to get things checked out before you start trying to make a baby.

Definitely get your swimmers assessed if you’ve been trying for a year or more and have any of the following:

  • Pain, discomfort, swelling, or a lump in or around the testicles
  • Erectile or ejaculation issues
  • Lower than usual or a sudden decrease in sex drive
  • A history of testicle or prostate issues
  • A history of groin, testicle, penis, or scrotum surgery
  • Reversed vasectomy (which can lead to development of antisperm antibodies where the immune system attacks the sperm)

Semen Analysis Results

Understanding the numbers on a sperm analysis can be confusing, especially because the parameters keep changing and there is more than one way of looking at them.

Following is a comparison of the two most up-to-date perspectives, the Kruger Strict and the World Health Organization (WHO).

normalsperm

As you can see, the most recent (5th) edition from the WHO reduced the criteria for morphology from 14 to 4 percent. This is based on the addition of a test created by Dr. Kruger, who made the definition of normal form (morphology) MUCH stricter than it used to be. These forms are analyzed through a complex lab test.

What Kruger discovered is that sperm that meet the strict shape criteria have a better chance at making it through cervical mucus and up to the fallopian tube for fertilization. These more strict guidelines also seem to have improved IVF outcomes.

What the East Says

As we discussed earlier, genetics are the domain of the Kidneys, in particular Kidney Jing. Sperm themselves are essentially pure Jing, and thus problems with sperm quality or count are generally attributed to Kidney deficiency. Semen, a liquid substance, also has a yin component, so in the case of low overall volume, yin must be addressed. When Kidney deficiencies are compounded by obstructions, pain, or swelling, then a diagnosis of either Blood and Qi stagnation or damp heat is added on to the Kidney diagnosis. Kidney deficiencies related to male fertility are diagnosed like this:

Kidney yin deficiency presents with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, poor sperm morphology, low semen volume, possible overactive libido, restlessness, heat, and anxiety.

Kidney yang deficiency causes erectile dysfunction/inability to sustain erection, very low libido, low sperm count, poor motility, feeling cold, lethargy, and possibly depression.

Damp heat leads to swollen, hot, or painful genitals, pain with urination, and/or abnormal discharge from the penis.

Qi and Blood stagnation are caused by congenital deformities (such as a missing vas deferens), undescended testicles, varicocele (a varicose vein in the scrotum), vasectomy, or other surgical history.

Much like his female counterpart’s treatment, Chinese medicine practitioners address male infertility with herbs, acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle modifications.

Because spermatogenesis takes roughly three months, it’s a good idea to commit to implementing these changes for at least that long before expecting improvement to be reflected in new semen analysis.


Feed Your FertilityFEED YOUR FERTILITY

Do you want to make a healthy baby and have a healthy pregnancy?

Are you interested in a holistic approach to fertility?

Do you need to optimize your fertility due to your age or health conditions?

Are you trying to conceive and experiencing challenges?

Very few women and men expect to have trouble when it comes to having a family, and coming up against obstacles can bring about epic levels of stress. Deciding what steps to take can be absolutely baffling.

The good news is that Feed Your Fertility is here to help you. Inside, fertility professionals and authors Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich will guide you on a path to making the nutritional and lifestyle changes you need to help support healthy fertility and pregnancy. Inside you’ll learn:

  • How your lifestyle may be inhibiting your ability to conceive – and what to do about it
  • Why popular fertility diets may be leading you down the wrong road
  • What foods to eat to optimize and nourish your fertility, and how to adopt a real foods diet
  • How to determine your personal health imbalances that may be interfering with your fertility
  • How to use Chinese medicine to bring your body into balance and improve your odds of conception
  • How to streamline your supplements and take only what you really need
  • Your natural and medical treatment options for common fertility issues
  • How to navigate the medical fertility world and when to seek help

Get your pregnancy on track the natural, time-tested way and enjoy your journey to motherhood with Feed Your Fertility.

What are Xenoestrogens and How Might They Impact Fertility?

When trying to conceive, you may have loads of questions about what can affect your ability to become pregnant. There are all kinds of fertility influencers, and one that often crops up on the list is the environment. Specifically discussed by Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich in their book, Feed Your Fertility, are chemical compounds that may affect your hormones.


For starters, we need to talk about xenoestrogens because they have the potential to have a direct effect on your fertility, your health, and your future offspring.

Xenoestrogens are chemical compounds that imitate estrogen in the body. They can be either naturally occurring or synthetic.

Natural xenoestrogens come primarily from plants (often called phytoestrogens), and we mostly get exposed to them through food such as soy.IllustratedPregnancy

Synthetic xenoestrogens are extremely prevalent in our environment and include things such as PCBs (in insulation and oil-based paints), BPA (in plastic), and phthalates (in cosmetics, lubricants, food packaging, and more).

Xenoestrogens are a problem because they act as endocrine disruptors, basically filling the receptors for true estrogen in the body, which is an issue whether you’re starting with too much, too little, or just the right amount of this hormone in the first place.

The resulting hormone imbalance directly interferes with reproductive health and has also been associated with early puberty in both boys and girls. Here are some guidelines to minimize your xenoestrogen exposure:

  • Do not drink from plastic water bottles that have been heated up by the sun or sitting in a hot car. It’s best not to reuse plastic water bottles—glass or stainless steel is optimal.both easy to make and easy on your wallet.
  • Buy organic produce, meats, and dairy products to avoid pesticides and hormones.
  • Store your food in glass containers; avoid plastic as much as possible, and definitely
    do not microwave or bake food in plastic.
  • If you’ve been a smoker of any substance, we’re going to assume that you’ve quit. (If not, talk to your acupuncturist about a plan ASAP.) If your family or friends smoke, steer clear as much as possible, making sure that anyone you live with moves his or her habit to the patio at the very least.
  • If you paint or otherwise work with toxic chemicals, reduce your exposure as much as possible, and—in addition to your nutrient-dense diet—make sure to supplement with glutathione and other antioxidants discussed in the book)
  • Ditch the perfumes. They may smell nice, but the chemicals in synthetic scents may disrupt your hormones. Avoid them in all forms—spray-ons, lotions, deodorants, air fresheners, etc. Essential oils make an excellent replacement.

Feed Your FertilityFEED YOUR FERTILITY

  • Do you want to make a healthy baby and have a healthy pregnancy?
  • Are you interested in a holistic approach to fertility?
  • Do you need to optimize your fertility due to your age or health conditions?
  • Are you trying to conceive and experiencing challenges?

Very few women and men expect to have trouble when it comes to having a family, and coming up against obstacles can bring about epic levels of stress. Deciding what steps to take can be absolutely baffling.

The good news is that Feed Your Fertility is here to help you. Inside, fertility professionals and authors Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich will guide you on a path to making the nutritional and lifestyle changes you need to help support healthy fertility and pregnancy. Inside you’ll learn:

  • How your lifestyle may be inhibiting your ability to conceive – and what to do about it
  • Why popular fertility diets may be leading you down the wrong road
  • What foods to eat to optimize and nourish your fertility, and how to adopt a real foods diet
  • How to determine your personal health imbalances that may be interfering with your fertility
  • How to use Chinese medicine to bring your body into balance and improve your odds of conception
  • How to streamline your supplements and take only what you really need
  • Your natural and medical treatment options for common fertility issues
  • How to navigate the medical fertility world and when to seek help

Get your pregnancy on track the natural, time-tested way and enjoy your journey to motherhood with Feed Your Fertility.

Try this Family Activity….the Stream Scramble

Believe it or not, spring is finally (officially) upon us. We are seeing longer days, bright sunshine, and signs that the giant mounds of snow are starting to recede.

After a long winter of staying inside, the spring is a perfect time to reconnect with nature by taking a hike. Scrambling up by a stream will provide some added bonuses–the soothing sound of rushing water, beautiful scenery, and–if you got a lot of snow this winter–a chance to see a memorable winter melt.

Here are some tips on stream scrambling from the book “100 Family Adventures,” by the Meek Family  (Tim, Kerry, Amy and Ella Meek).

Check out the Meek Family website: http://www.dotrythisathome.com


Scrambling up a stream valley feels like a really rugged adventure that offers challenge, risk and usually stunning views that get better the higher you climb.

The ideas is simply to find a mountain or hill stream and walk against the flow towards the upland source, sticking as close to you can to the water at all times. The lower, flatter sections will be gentle and relaxing, but as the journey progresses, the scramble over rocks and boulders will become more challenging and exhilarating.

As with most family adventures, as long as there are no specific time restrictions, don’t rush; take your time and look back regularly to take in the views. A casual pace will ensure careful foot placement and reduce the chance of unwanted trips and falls.

This adventure activity, by its very nature, involves some danger and risk–obviously the more difficult the route, such as a steep gradient, rocky or slippery terrain, the greater the risk. For this reason, if you are taking young adventurers out stream scrambling, it is sensible to do a ‘recce’ (reconnaissance) beforehand to ensure the level of challenge is appropriate.

Any successful scrambles you complete can be revisited when the conditions are cold and snowy. The difficulty level will be upped, of course. So bear that in mind, but so too will the sense of achievement and reward.

TIPS AND CONSIDERATIONS

  • Ensure all scramblers have sturdy and supportive footwear, ideally boots
  • Plan your route carefully beforehand using a suitable map. Use the internet to research proposed routes
  • Turn back if you find the difficulty level is beyond the weakest member of the group
  • Always have a suitable map with you in case you have to abort the challenge and find an alternate route
  • ‘Spot’ youngsters on steep sections (this involves standing behind them with arms outstretched in the air, ready to provide assistance should a slip or fall occur)

100FamilyAdventures100 FAMILY ADVENTURES

Childhood obesity is increasing year on year. Happiness and well-being levels in children are on the decline too. Children spend less time outside and more time in front of screens: computers, phones, games, television.

100 Family Adventures provides a valuable resource bank of tried and tested outdoor activities to enjoy with children, swapping ‘screen time’ for ‘green time’. Particularly inspiring for people who want to get started, but don’t know how, the book shows how any family, anywhere in the country, can enjoy time together outdoors.

Activities are grouped into themes: Woodland, Water, Close to Home, Hills and Mountains, Exploring, By the Sea, Extreme Weather. Within each section is a range in difficulty, from making a rope swing to scrambling up a stream, from spending a day without electricity to going on a charity bike ride, from exploring a rockpool to camping on an uninhabited island.

Packed with inspiring photos, sensible but enthusiastic instructions from parents Tim and Kerry combine with remarks and advice (and jokes!) from children Amy and Ella.

Are You Pregnant? Consider Using A Birth Ball

BirthBall

A birth ball can be a great place for you to sit while watching television, doing your work,or even practicing relaxation. It’s also a great labor tool!

One of the keys to a comfortable pregnancy is helping your body adjust to the changes that take place as your baby grows.

Over the course of your pregnancy, the extra weight and unique positioning challenges can put added stress on your lower back, hips and core, and anything you can do to tone and strengthen those muscles will help to make you more comfortable.

As chidbirth and postpartum educator Robin Weiss explains in her book, “The Complete Illustrated Pregnancy Companion,” a balance ball can help to strengthen your core and improve your posture, thus reducing the chances of discomfort.

“A birth ball is the same thing as an exercise or physiotherapy ball. A birth ball is very useful for the duration of pregnancy and not simply the labor and birth portion.

“You can use a birth ball to replace your desk chair or to help you exercise. The benefits of using a birth ball in place of your regular chair are many, including helping with your posture. Because posture is a key factor in reducing back strain and pain in pregnancy, you will want to pay attention to this even in your everyday life, such as when you are sitting at a desk.

When you sit on a birth ball, you are forced to sit up straight, which helps align your back and pelvis. Sitting on a birth ball at your desk, dining room table, and wherever you sit will improve your posture, which means less backache.

In addition to using a birth ball as a chair, you can do exercises on it. You can rent or buy videos devoted to birth ball exercises, including ones that are just for pregnancy. They focus on stretching, aerobics, and improving your overall health. Many women choose to use birth balls while giving birth.

Many hospitals and birth centers supply their own balls to patients in labor. If your hospital or birth center does not, you will need to provide your own.

Birth balls come in three sizes. The one that’s right for you is based on your height, according to the following guide:

  • 4’8″ to 5’5″ takes a 55 centimeter (cm) ball (55 centimeters=approximately 21.5 inches)
  • 5’6″ to 6’0″ takes a 65-centimer ball (65 cm= 25.5 inches)
  • 6’0″ plus takes a 75 cm centimeter ball (75 cm=29.5 inches)

You should make sure that you select a birth ball that is meant for sitting on and will bear your weight. Some people have been tempted to purchase less expensive balls that are meant as children’s toys. This can be dangerous for you to sit and exercise upon.


Pregnancy CompanionTHE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED PREGNANCY COMPANION

The comfort of knowing what is going on during pregnancy combined with advice that changes each week with an expectant mother’s body will warm the heart and well as calm the nerves.  This fully illustrated pregnancy guide gives an expectant mothers week-by-week information on their body and the child’s physical development; and then explains what they should do at each week of pregnancy for an optimally healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby. A chapter is devoted to each week of pregnancy and covers everything readers need to know including, baby’s size, mother’s size, what’s normal in terms of physical symptoms and development, and what could indicate a potentially serious problem. Nutritional, exercise, and lifestyle advice, tips on treating common pregnancy discomforts like morning sickness and sciatica, and pregnancy do’s and don’ts, ensure a happy and healthy mother and baby.