What’s the right age to start a family?
It’s a contentious query. Especially since growing numbers of women are putting off having children until they reach their late thirties and early forties, by which time their fertility (along with their chances of conceiving naturally) may have waned.
Advances in contraception twinned with increasing opportunity in the workplace have led some women to choose to postpone starting a family, waiting longer than their mothers and grandmothers might have to conceive their first child.
In 2012, for instance, almost 30,000 women over the age of forty gave birth in the UK and Ireland. In some respects, this is great news. By the time you reach your late thirties and early forties, you’re more likely to have found your groove. Financially stable and emotionally mature, thirty and forty-somethings can make fabulous first-time mothers.
However, older mothers are more likely to have developed health problems due to poor diet. Unfortunately, pre-existing conditions, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, can lead to serious complications during pregnancy, resulting in poor outcomes.
Although older celebrity mums, such as Madonna, Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman, make it all look oh so easy, there’s no escaping the fact that a woman’s most fertile years occur during her twenties, when she is also likely to be fit and healthy.
As a woman approaches her thirties, her fertility inevitably begins to decline, dropping off more sharply as she passes thirty-five. This is especially true among smokers and heavy drinkers, as well as those who have been known to slip up when it comes to eating right.
Good health and higher rates of fertility correlate. Maintaining good nutrition slows the decline in a woman’s fertility, making natural conception after the age of thirty-five much more probable.
Although there are risks associated with pregnancy after the age of thirty-five, if you’re fit, healthy and consuming a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, your body is likely to be adequately equipped for what lies ahead, including all those sleepless nights…
Eating for two
Since healthy bodies make for healthy babies, if you’re trying to conceive, maintaining good nutrition should be among your top priorities.
Cleanse, nurture, and prepare your body for what’s to come by minimising your intake of food and drink high in toxins and low in nutrients.
Alcohol, caffeinated beverages and fizzy drinks, as well as dairy products, and processed foods should be avoided by anyone wishing to get pregnant. Not only do these foods and drinks tend to be calorie dense and laden with sugar, they give your body little of what it’s crying out for during conception and pregnancy.
On the other hand, wholesome, organic grains like oatbran, millet and quinoa, and fresh fruits and leafy green veggies can be eaten in abundance.
Switch to organic varieties of your favourite fruits and vegetables as non-organic variants may harbour pesticides and chemicals, increasing the toxicity levels inside your body and lowering your chances of getting pregnant.
Organic, vitamin-dense foods are clinically proven to boost health, as well as being great fuel for your changing body.
Juicing fresh fruits and vegetables is a fuss-free way of upping your nutrient intake and increasing vitality. In fact, fresh fruit and vegetable juices are so nourishing, consuming them regularly has been likened to undertaking a blood transfusion!
Juices made up of carrots, beetroot tops and beetroots have been proven to increase haemoglobin and red blood cell counts, while leafy greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, dandelion greens and parsley are a great source of Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Vitamin B.
Organic Rooibos tea, which has been popular in South Africa for centuries, is a delicious alternative to regular tea and coffee as it is naturally caffeine free, bursting with antioxidants, and can be consumed without the addition of milk.
You might also like to consider taking Evening Primrose Oil, which is widely believed to help regulate blood pressure and ease breast pain, and skip bottled water altogether, as the chemical compounds found in plastic water bottles have been associated with infertility.
It’s also a good idea to increase your water intake and take regular, gentle exercise.
To wait or not to wait, that is the question
While clinicians advise women to try and have their first baby before the age of thirty-five, there is no reason why you can’t become pregnant over the age of thirty-five if you adhere to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Of course, in answer to my initial question, the right age to start a family varies from person to person.
Whether you’re twenty-one, thirty-one or forty-one, if you’d like to get pregnant, feed your body with what it needs, focussing on nutrition, sustenance and overall health.
Erika Doolan – Nutritionist