Make an appointment with your doc to discuss your plans. To prepare, create a health record that notes such key facts as how old you were when you started menstruating, length of your periods, previous pregnancies, and any health problems (endometriosis, uterine fibroids, etc.). Also, do you smoke? And if you took them, how long ago did you stop birth control pills?
A chat with your mom and other family members may be in order so you can include information about any family history of health problems. Ask your mom about her reproductive health and any issues she had. And if she's gone through it already, include the age she entered menopause on your list to take to the doctor.
Tell your doc which medications or supplements you or your partner take. Certain ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood pressure meds have a negative effect on sperm quality and/or quantity. For women, thyroid replacement therapy may create an imbalance of hormones and disrupt ovulation. Some experts believe such herbal supplements as St. John's Wort, echinacea, and gingko biloba pose harm to sperm.
Your doctor may refer you for certain tests, including a hormonal profile (also called a hormonal panel). This simple blood test, done on days 1 to 3 of your menstrual cycle, measures levels of reproductive hormones, including FSH, estrogen, and luteinizing hormone (LH). You may also be told to come back later in your cycle (day 21 of a 28-day cycle) to have your progesterone levels checked.
To know your most fertile days, record the length of your monthly cycles over the past few months. Most women think their cycles must last 28 days in order to be considered normal. In reality, a normal cycle can last anywhere from 22 to 35 days—ovulation generally occurs two weeks before your next menstrual period begins.
Tracking your basal body temperature can reveal important clues about ovulation. Women experience a slight dip in temperature (a few tenths of a degree below normal) just before ovulation and a slight rise in body temperature (less than 1 degree above normal) after ovulation. If no shift in body temperature is detected, chances are you are not ovulating.
Cervical mucus plays a vital role in predicting ovulation. For most of your cycle, it is sticky and opaque. For about five days leading up to ovulation, the mucus becomes clear and slippery. This "fertile mucus" allows sperm easier transport through the reproductive tract. Seeing that change is a good indication you're ovulating.
An ovulation predictor kit (OPK) tracks your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). A sudden rise in LH is what causes a follicle in the ovary to rupture and discharge the egg. Tracking your urine stream for LH levels (an OPK works much like a pregnancy test) and noting a rise in hormone levels could help you predict your most fertile days.
Besides whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lean sources of protein, make sure your diet includes nutrients that naturally support hormone production. Your endocrine system will thank you for eating foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, vitamin B6, zinc, magnesium, and fruits and veggies rich in antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta carotene.
If you're only 15 or 20 pounds overweight, your doctor may recommend paying closer attention to what you eat, but otherwise not delaying conception plans. But if you are very overweight, it might be worth it to lose some weight first. Losing only 5 to 10 percent of your weight may give your fertility a jump start and reduce your risk for prenatal complications.
Aerobic activity oxygenates and increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including reproductive organs. Exercise also decreases stress. If you haven't exercised regularly for a few years, start off with a 10-minute walk and gradually build up from there to a daily 30-minute walks. If you have arthritis or knee injuries, opt for swimming or water aerobics to ease pressure on your joints.
Stress steps up production of stress hormones, which can create imbalances in your other hormone levels. Whether you find peace through yoga, jogging, talking to a good friend, or reading a really juicy novel, take time in your daily schedule to clear your head and let yourself unwind.
Though men continue to produce sperm over the course of their adult lifetime, older men experience a gradual decline in testosterone levels, sperm counts, and sperm motility. Your man should have a complete physical exam before the two of you start trying to conceive. Depending on certain health factors, sperm testing may be advised.
If you're older than 35 and have tried unsuccessfully for six months to become pregnant, it may be time to see a fertility specialist. For older women, typical causes of infertility include lack of ovulation and problems with egg quality. Working with a fertility specialist can help pinpoint whether you or your partner are experiencing any fertility issues—and give you an idea of what you can do to still reach your goal of having a baby.
Diagnosed with missed or irregular ovulation? You might be prescribed Clomid. Clomid "tells" the brain to release more FSH and LH. When these hormones increase, ovulation returns. Another alternative is to receive daily hormone injections (a mix of FSH and LH) to reestablish ovulation. Both methods may stimulate the release of more than one egg, resulting in higher rates of multiple birth pregnancy.
Your fertility specialist may indicate that IVF is a good option for you. If you tried other fertility meds and they didn't work, or if fertility testing turned up that you have a blocked fallopian tube, or the issue is with your partner's sperm, IVF can be an effective way to overcome these problems and still have a baby. Talk to your doctor.
If hormonal testing shows that egg quality and ovarian function have significantly deteriorated, an effective option for overcoming this fertility barrier is donor egg IVF. The process is the same as standard IVF, except that instead of using your own eggs, donor eggs are used. The chances of a successful pregnancy can be very high using an egg from a donor in her 20s or early 30s, and the miscarriage rate is very low.
Connecting with other women who are going through the same issues you are can be comforting, and serve as a sounding board for your questions and concerns. Join the other ladies who are 30+ Trying to Conceive or Pregnant for support, understanding, answers, and compassion.