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Getting pregnant after forty is big business—Time is not your friend and there’s a virtual football stadium full of profitable prenatal healthcare providers ready to help you ‘win one for the (little) Gipper’.
When I conceived Alex at 41, it was only after Frank endured varicocele embolization (see link below), which began with having a stainless steel coil inserted through a catheter in his jugular vein.
At 43, I miscarried at eight weeks, and felt the first tendrils of fear snaking out like strangling vines suffocating my fallopian tubes.
I’d always ‘seen’ a little sister for Alex. Had I lost the little sister?
Then, like every other over-40 mother hopefully to be, I took a panicked crash course on everything from vitamin supplements to ovulation kits, not to mention a brief foray into the elusive promise of circus-conception-snake oil—where ‘a little dab’ll do ya’.
I learned that Time, in fact, may be our most sagacious ally in successful fertility, conception and pregnancy after 40. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Chinese_herbology)—including acupuncture and herbal wisdom—has been with us for at least 2000 years.
A 41-year-old Australian school teacher and blogger—New Mum Over 40 (http://www NULL.newtomum NULL.blogspot NULL.com/)—started her journey to conception in May 2009, when she and her partner (whom she met at 38) “abandoned contraception”.
NewMum (http://www NULL.newtomum NULL.blogspot NULL.com/)—who describes her blog as “the journey and discoveries about becoming pregnant over 40” and insists on anonymity—began her “natural fertility path” by teaming up with a naturopath and acupuncturist last year.
Her naturopath put both prospective parents on a herb and vitamin regime and administered blood and saliva tests to determine hormone levels.
According to NewMum (http://www NULL.newtomum NULL.blogspot NULL.com/), her naturopath-acupuncturist team “have a 100% strike rate with all of their patients achieving pregnancy, including those who have been through several rounds of IVF…within one year.”
Since then she has been on a roller coaster ride of discoveries between natural treatments and the results of first series of tests at a fertility clinic in December 2009.
During the last 9 months, a gestation period of self-discovery, NewMum was told that her “hormones are all over the place”, she is suspected of having PCOS, and that her “homocysteine levels were too high”.
After a steady program of alternative treatments, her hormone levels have settled, she’s still ovulating, and her egg count was high at last look-in.
Although her fertility doctor has not prescribed Clomid, NewMum (http://www NULL.newtomum NULL.blogspot NULL.com/) may yet be labeled with a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”.
After months of tests and fertility tune-ups, what’s the hold-up?
Certified Professional Midwife and Herbalist, Helena Wu (http://www NULL.goodmedicinetree NULL.net/)—who has had a small, rural practice in Londonderry, Vermont for 18 years—offers a unique perspective on the gamut of conception to birth.
After ‘feeding’ her dolls honeysuckle berries as a little girl, Wu now grows her own crops of herbs and says that the “unbroken Chinese tradition” of using plant medicine is “in her blood.”
“I think my herbal training has given me additional ways to look at a woman’s state of health” she says. “I have more tools to use from knowing the herbs.”
Wu’s philosophy is simple and grounded: people have always used plants for food and medicine. Using them for conception, pregnancy and raising our families “seems natural”.
“Many home remedies work just as well as the products found in drug stores for a fraction of the price.”
Helena Wu cites an example of a “mom who hemorrhaged with her first birth. She [the mom] took her herbal infusions regularly and visualized the placenta detaching smoothly and not bleeding a lot.”
“At the birth she hardly bled at all, under 1/4 cup (2 cups is considered within normal)” she continues.
“It’s kind of an everyday type of miracle that when you match the right herb for the right person, it works.”
When it comes to conception for over-40 women, Helen Wu will only prescribe herb medicines on an individual case basis—although she says there are many herbal teas that are safe for most women to drink.
Her advice in preparing for later life pregnancy takes on a holistic flavor.
“Nourish, nourish, nourish yourself in all ways from the physical to emotional and spiritual” she advises.
“This means having an excellent whole foods diet, getting outdoors for exercise, relieving stress, taking time for spiritual reflection. As an older woman, your body has had extra years to be exposed to environmental toxins or feel the effects of bad health habits or the effects emotional patterns or stress.”
Wu suggests a pre-conception fast or cleansing for over-40 women, especially if they are having trouble conceiving.
She considers herbs and herbal teas “generally safer than pharmaceuticals” but they can also cause problems if used incorrectly. Specifically, stay away from abortifacients (http://wapedia NULL.mobi/en/Abortifacient#2 NULL.) and stick to herbs that are “more food-like”.
Prior to conception, Helena Wu feels that drinking loose leaf peppermint, green tea, dandelion, chamomile and rosehip teas are fine. “Infusions”—where the tea leaves steep several hours, rather than ten minutes—extract more of the minerals from the tea.
However, when it comes to advice from a healthcare professional about herbal medicines, she would trust the advice of “a knowledgeable herbalist over a doctor who does not really know about herbs.”
Once pregnant, Helena Wu recommends about a quart of herbal tea infusion a day to nourish the pregnancy from a selection of oat straw or milky tops, red raspberry, red clover, nettles, rosehips, or alfalfa.
For over-40 conception and pregnancy, Helena Wu proffers insight from ancient woman’s wisdom, culled from the earth, steeped in thousands of years of plant medicine, and cupped in the hands of a compassionate midwife:
“Older women have the advantage of having some life experience, generally more financial resources and stability.
“Their challenge is to be able to let go of control and go with the flow. The only thing we can really control is our choices—what we eat, choose to stress over, activities we do, how we take care of ourselves. All the tests and technology available do give some information but no guarantees and still, no ultimate control.”
And this may be Helena Wu’s best prescription for conception after all: it was at Christmas, 2004—when I had given up hope and let go—that I conceived Lizzie, naturally, at the age of 44.
Links for this blog:
Varicocele embolization explained: http://www.varicoceles.com/varicocele-treatment-options.htm (http://www NULL.varicoceles NULL.com/varicocele-treatment-options NULL.htm)
New Mum Over 40 (http://www NULL.newtomum NULL.blogspot NULL.com/)
Helena Wu, CPM, Herbalist
http://www.goodmedicinetree.net/ (http://www NULL.goodmedicinetree NULL.net/)
To locate a herbalist:
Northeast Herbal Association (http://www NULL.northeastherbal NULL.org/)
American Herbalists Guild (http://www NULL.americanherbalistsguild NULL.com/)
- (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/health-headlines/women-increasingly-going-online-to-seek-free-sperm-donors-1 NULL.1590245)
Angel on CNN(http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)
CNN Mother's Day: "Mature Moms" (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)(http://youtu NULL.be/atScMih4_d0) (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
AARP's "Inside E-Sreet" on PBS TV (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
(http://twitter NULL.com/achildafter40) (https://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/AChildAfter40) AChildAfter40 (http://pinterest NULL.com/AChildAfter40/)
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