Although it might not be a subject we talk about with our friends over coffee, if you’re struggling with fertility issues, it can be hard to know where to turn. We sat down with fertility expert and author, Emma Cannon, who answered your questions, and talked about her new book ‘Fertile’. Watch the full interview and have a read of our favourite questions below.
I’m 44 and pregnant, do I need to be doing any extra because of my age?
Well I’m going to answer this question in two parts; I’m going to answer a part of it that you didn’t ask me which is for women trying to get pregnant at that age. So I think as we get older the need to take care of ourselves increases, because our bodies powers to recuperate and regenerate are depleted with age. So rest is really, really important. For those trying to get pregnant in their forties, or for those who are already pregnant in their forties: rest, rest, rest. Obviously if you’re pregnant you’re not smoking or drinking anyway, but for those who are trying to get pregnant in their forties I really recommend not drinking and smoking.
So my message really for older women is if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you do need to take better care of yourself. Absolutely you can have a baby in your forties and it can all be perfectly healthy and everything can go well, more and more women are having babies at this age, but it’s just a really good excuse to take better care of yourself.
In your experience, what is the most common reason women struggle to conceive?
I think the biggest problem for conception is still ovulatory problems. So women who don’t ovulate at all or have irregular ovulation and this is something that the press don’t talk about too much as it’s not particularly sexy. They like to talk about women leaving it too late because it’s nice and headline grabbing, but actually one of the most common problems is ovulation. So that means that your body isn’t releasing an egg at mid cycle, or perhaps it is releasing an egg but at a different time, so perhaps much later in the cycle, so when you’re having sex you’re missing the fertile window.
I’m not sure on the statistics of this but I think probably one of the second is tubal problems, so perhaps caused by STD’s such as chlamydia. Tubal problems can cause things like an ectopic pregnancy where the pregnancy develops outside the womb within the tube. So that’s still a really big factor in fertility and traditionally IVF was designed to treat tubal problems and it’s still the best treatment to overcome this.
How can I conceive twins?
Well unfortunately I don’t know of any natural way to conceive twins. There is some idea that the older you are the more likely you are to conceive twins, because apparently as you reach the end of your fertile life the body panics a bit and often releases more than one egg, so that’s one way – it’s a bit risky though! The only real way I know for sure is IVF, so having two embryos put back in an IVF cycle. The problem with that is you may end up with triplets, because sometimes the egg can still split.
Why should I avoid eating raw foods/ juices when I’m trying to conceive?
For fertility you really want to keep the core body temperature up, you want a warm body and when you eat lots of raw foods and cold juices, this is really chilling for the digestion. We do live in a cold, damp client. A lot of the time when people come and see me their systems are very cold, when I put my hand on their tummy and it’s really cold. For good fertility you want a really good bloody flow, so I really recommend eating more cooked foods. I particularly have a rule about eating raw food in evening, so no raw after four is my rule on that one if it helps.
How often does a couple have to have sex if they are trying to conceive?
This is a big subject sex, and it’s amazing how far down it can come on the list of priorities. So clearly if you do want to have a baby then actually having regular sex has got to be a priority. That said I think it can very easily be turned into another chore, so there’s a very fine line here between trying to have the right amount of sex at the right time, to actually taking away from the enjoyment. So really, really tread carefully with this. If you’re having sex regularly throughout the month, perhaps every third day, you will hit the fertile time. Don’t save it for just that fertile window and then diary it in as if it’s another thing to do, as that really does cause problems.
What are your tips for women who have suffered a miscarriage previously?
A miscarriage is still one of those medical taboos; it’s something that is so common, but is so hidden. As soon as you’ve had a miscarriage you realise just how many other people have had miscarriages that perhaps have kept it to themselves, or haven’t talked about it. It’s really difficult because as soon as you’re pregnant, you invest your emotions in that pregnancy. You imagine when the baby’s going to be born and you make plans around that. So even if you lose a pregnancy really early on, it can have devastating effects emotionally. And men suffer too, I think women don’t get much support but men get zero support in miscarriage and they definitely suffer too.
So the first thing to say is one of the things women who have had previous miscarriages need is a good support system. They need to work with people that they trust and have an outlet to talk about their feelings and their fears. There is really good research to suggest that women who’ve suffered previously from miscarriages, if they’re supported in subsequent pregnancies they go on to have better results. So build your team around you, find the things that work for you, the people that make you feel good, the people you trust. If it helps you feel good to focus on your diet, focus on your diet; do all the things that you can do yourself to make you feel good and safe – this will help you go on to have a normal pregnancy.
Also remember that most miscarriages are completely normal and they’re just part of the normal selection process. The majority of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities or because that would never have been a viable pregnancy anyway, so it is actually a natural process. At some point there are problems that cause miscarriage that might need looking into, but usually you need to have had two or three in order for investigations to take place on the NHS.
For more information, or to find out more about Emma's book Fertile, click here.