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Fertility over 40: how to increase your chance of conceiving

Netdoctor (UK) logo Netdoctor (UK) 09/01/2019 Dr Sara Kayat
a person brushing the teeth: According to research and recent reports, conceiving over the age of 40 can be difficult. If you're having trouble trying for a baby, there are things that you can do to increase the chances of you falling pregnant. Women's health expert and GP Dr Sara Kayat explains how to boost your fertility over the age of 40. © Getty Images According to research and recent reports, conceiving over the age of 40 can be difficult. If you're having trouble trying for a baby, there are things that you can do to increase the chances of you falling pregnant. Women's health expert and GP Dr Sara Kayat explains how to boost your fertility over the age of 40.

Struggling to conceive? If you're over 40 and worried you might have left it too late, you will be pleased to hear in 2015 the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over rose above the rate for women aged under 20 for the first time in nearly 70 years.

According to experts at the Office of National Statistics, people have been increasingly delaying childbearing until later life, resulting in rising fertility rates among older women. They cite a number of factors, but the increasing importance of a career and the rising costs of childcare means that more and more women are choosing to delay their pregnancy until later in life. 

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A pregnant woman holds her stomach whilst lying on a sofa. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images) © Getty A pregnant woman holds her stomach whilst lying on a sofa. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images) However, as the body ages, getting pregnant can be more problematic than for people in their teens and twenties. Many women considering pregnancy in their 40s will look to IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and indeed the number of procedures in the UK is rising.

But there are lifestyle choices that every woman needs to consider, should she want to improve her fertility and likelihood of having a healthy baby:

1. Get sexual

Have sex at least every other day during your fertile window. Understanding your own menstrual cycle is one of the most important things you can do, studies show you're most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within a day or so of ovulation. Ovulation usually happens about 14 days after the first day of your last period.

2. Eat healthy food

Healthy meal  © Getty Healthy meal  Being overweight can seriously affect your chances of conceiving. Women whose BMI is more than 30 can have problems conceiving, so, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming lots of fruit and vegetables and cutting out the processed foods should assist both your chances of conceiving and the potential health of the foetus. This also leads on to the third important factor, vitamins.

3. Give yourself a pre-natal vitamin boost

Vitamin D and Folic acid are both recommended by the NHS to encourage the healthy development of the foetus and in particular its neural pathways. If you are a vegetarian or vegan you may also want to consider checking iron and vitamin B12 levels as it can sometimes be difficult to get enough through your diet.

4. Be mindful of changes in your body

The thyroid regulates our metabolism, and an undiagnosed thyroid disorder can affect your chances of conceiving. Some of the symptoms of a dysfunctional thyroid include weight and mood changes, sensitivity to cold/hot, skin dryness, palpitations and fatigue. So if you have noticed any of these changes, it is worth considering a visit to the GP to get a blood test.

5. Lose the booze

Wine  © Getty Wine  Lots of us understand that it's vital to cut out alcohol when pregnant - however it is less well known that alcohol can really impede your ability to conceive. Recent research from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has found that drinking three glasses of wine a week can have a detrimental effect on pregnancy success for both men and women.

💡 If you've been trying for a child for more than a year without success, you should seek medical advice from your GP – after all, that's what we're here for.

6. Ditch the smoking

Cutting smoking from your daily habits may seem like a no brainer, but recent studies have shone further light upon the damage tobacco causes to birth rates in general. For those women looking to conceive later in life, it's worth noting that those who smoke will reach menopause on average two years earlier than non-smokers.

7. Avoid high-impact exercise

While moderate exercise is useful in reducing fat – strenuous or excessive exercise can cause real problems with your menstrual cycle – a US study of ballet dancers found that the strenuous physical exercise was the cause of the deterioration of their menstrual cycle. This may be an extreme example, but as part of a concerted effort to conceive every woman needs to be aware of these deciding factors on their bodies.

Gallery: 15 old wives' tales about women's health debunked [Red]

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