Sitting here at my computer typing this with one hand, whilst I rock my 4-week old daughter in her pram as she finally drifts off for a nap, I have been thinking recently about my fertility journey now that I am finally on the other side of the mountain that is trying to have a family. New figures in the news this week reveal that the birth rate in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in 80 years and fertility rates have fallen in women of all ages except, interestingly, those aged 40 and over, where they have remained the same 1. At nearly 42, I have become an older new mum to my second child. When I was a child, my mum was 43 when my younger sister was born and I can distinctly remember thinking that my mum was ancient! How times have changed since the late 1970s and nowadays so many more of us are becoming parents in our 40s. There may be many reasons for this changing trend, for example, financial and social reasons, career choices, health reasons or simply, as in my case, not meeting my husband until later on in life. However, the flip side to this is that so many people are leaving starting a family to later in life and then unfortunately having fertility problems.
For us it’s been a mammoth 6-year journey of enormous highs and, with it, the corresponding desperate lows. Our journey started one summer evening in a Caribbean garden in 2013 when my husband and I, whilst feeling very relaxed on holiday, first started talking about the idea of starting a family. Oh, looking back on that time, I am struck with the simplicity and naivety of the thought that it would be easy for us, as it had been (or seemed to be) for many of our friends. Fast-forward 6 years later and 2 ectopic pregnancies, a miscarriage and 3 cycles of IVF along the way, we are finally the proud parents of two beautiful girls and our family is now complete. But this has not come without some cost, emotionally, physically and financially. It has felt as though the last 6 years have been ‘Project Baby’ and the relief of finally being able to move on from this part of our lives is now truly palpable.
What have I learnt along the way on my journey and also from speaking to many of my clients who are facing their own unique fertility journeys? It is so important to have a plan, a roadmap to help you navigate this path, which can, at times, feel so lonely, desolate and hopeless. Otherwise, there is a danger of loosing direction, feeling lost and abandoning hope. For those of us who are struggling or have struggled to conceive, infertility can make us feel totally inadequate. I often felt as though I was looking in from the outside of life, never quite deserving to be in the centre, where people with young families were. I remember so very well the ambivalent and confusing feelings as yet another friend fell pregnant with what seemed like incredible ease; I even had friends who were falling pregnant accidently! Of course I was delighted for them, but inside it was further acknowledgment of just how my body had failed me time and time again.
However, I turned this despair around and decided I was going to do everything I could to improve our chances of conceiving, whether naturally or ultimately, in our case, in preparation for the assisted route. My fertility journey turned all aspects of my life upside down and ultimately led me to retrain from my previous career as a vet to becoming a Nutritional Therapist, as I wanted to help other women (and men) who were trying to navigate their fertility journeys. I had to look at all areas of my life in order to turn my fertility around: from my nutrition, lifestyle, supplementation, toxic exposure, exercise and activity levels, stress levels, my ability to relax and how positive my mindset was. Indeed these are all areas I now explore with my clients who are looking to increase their chances of pregnancy success. If you are struggling with your fertility I want you to know that you are not alone but I urge you to be proactive about it. The phrase ‘If you change nothing, nothing will change,’ which I repeated to myself during our journey resonated with me and I slowly started making changes, one by one. But change is hard and sometimes it can take a bit of support and guidance to kick-start us into making those changes.
I did improve our chances of pregnancy success and ultimately improved my fertility, despite being nearly 42 when I had my second daughter. In fact, all the changes I made actually improved my egg quality, fertilisation rate and embryo quality, which were quantifiable at our second fresh IVF cycle when I was 41, compared to our first cycle 3 years earlier. It is never too late to start and there is always something that can be done to improve your fertility; there is always hope even if you are in your 40s. That is the message I want to leave you with, although there were times over the last 6 years that I felt despairing, I never gave up hope and I hung onto the thought that, for many of us, having a family is a marathon and not a sprint. In my case it was a 6-year marathon but I am finally over the finish line. Let me help you create a bespoke plan for your marathon training and ultimately support you to cross over your finish line too.