If you’re thinking of having a baby and you’re in your mid-30s or beyond, you’re in good company. In fact, the average age of first-time mothers has been on the rise for the past four decades. Although you look and feel great (40 is the new 30 after all!), age and fertility go hand-in-hand. Fortunately, there are some diet and lifestyle tips to consider while preparing for a healthy pregnancy over age 35.
Advanced Maternal Age and Fertility
You may be wondering why age plays such an important role in your fertility.
Believe it or not, if you are trying to get pregnant over the age of 35, you are considered “advanced maternal age.” Because many women are delaying pregnancy until well into their thirties, this can be a hard truth to accept.
It is, however, an important truth to understand. Age and fertility are directly linked. There are two main fertility factors to consider: egg quantity and egg quality. They both follow a similar pattern, naturally decreasing with age.
There is little you can do about your age. Time keeps marching on! But here’s the good news:
You can begin to make healthy choices to prepare your body for pregnancy. Doing so may help support a healthy pregnancy well into your mid-thirties and beyond.
1. Aim for healthy blood pressure levels.
Healthy blood pressure during pregnancy:
- Helps support healthy blood flow to the placenta to deliver oxygen and important nutrients to your baby
- Supports healthy fetal growth and development
- Helps keep your other organs healthy
- Supports healthy gestational length (how long you carry your baby)
So, it’s important to make sure your blood pressure is under control before pregnancy. Diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact on your blood pressure and heart health. Focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, and keep tabs on your sodium intake. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. Ditching the salt shaker is a great way to cut back on sodium, but sodium can be sneaky. It hides in processed meats and cheeses, packaged snack foods, canned soups, canned vegetables (look for no-salt-added varieties!), and more, so check the Nutrition Facts label to help guide your food choices.
Despite their best efforts, some healthy women still have blood pressure concerns during pregnancy, especially those over 35 years old. Be sure to have your healthcare provider take your blood pressure regularly during pregnancy. You may require medication to manage your blood pressure while pregnant, and that’s okay. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice to help you achieve healthy blood pressure levels to support a healthy pregnancy.
2. Get moving!
Regular physical activity helps support mental health, heart health, bone health, and a healthy weight. While the number on the scale isn’t the sole indicator of health, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help support fertility.
Exercise also helps support a healthy pregnancy, so developing a consistent physical activity routine before pregnancy can help you carry the benefits of exercise through pregnancy and beyond. Labor may even be easier for women who stay active during pregnancy – yet another reason to prioritize fitness.
3. Talk to your doctor about caffeine.
You may have heard that caffeine is not recommended while you are trying to conceive. But that morning coffee can be a hard habit to break. After all, nothing provides get-up-and-go like a cup of joe. Caffeine is the bitter-tasting substance found in coffee beans, but it’s also in tea leaves, kola nuts, and cacao pods.
The truth: moderate caffeine intake does not appear to affect fertility for most people. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends limiting caffeine to 200 mg per day during pregnancy. If you’re trying to conceive, you can usually stick to the same recommendation.
It can be difficult to keep tabs on your caffeine intake, mostly because the caffeine content of coffee and other caffeinated foods and beverages can vary, and the precise amount may not be listed on the food label. Check out this caffeine chart to help you monitor your daily caffeine intake.
The bottom line: Always follow the advice of your healthcare practitioner regarding caffeine.
4. Take a prenatal designed specifically for preconception.
When you’re planning a pregnancy, your nutrient needs are different than during pregnancy. Therefore, it’s important to start taking a good preconception prenatal vitamin as soon as you start trying to conceive. This should include enough folate, iron, iodine, vitamin D, and choline.
Folate, Choline, and Vitamin D
Folate and choline are important to help support healthy neural tube development. The neural tube forms within the first several weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant.
Maintaining a healthy vitamin D level is essential for fertility and a healthy pregnancy, so you may want to have your vitamin D level checked when you start trying to conceive. If it is below 30 ng/mL, consider taking 50-100 mcg (2,000-4,000 IU) of vitamin D3 for a few months to achieve a healthy level. Most people can eventually switch to a daily maintenance dose of 50 mcg (2,000 IU) of vitamin D. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine a regimen that is best for you.
Research shows that daily doses of 50-100 mcg (2,000-4,000 IU) of vitamin D3 are safe during pregnancy and can help women achieve healthy vitamin D levels.
5. Consider increasing your coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) intake for egg quality.
If you are trying to get pregnant after the age of 35, you may want to consider increasing your intake of CoQ10 . CoQ10 plays a crucial role in energy production in the body’s cells, including egg cells. Rich food sources of coenzyme Q10 include meat, poultry, and fish.
CoQ10 levels naturally decrease with age, and as a result, so does egg quality. Although many focus on egg quantity, egg quality is one of the most important factors in fertility. Research indicates that CoQ10 plays an important role in supporting healthy egg quality and a healthy pregnancy.
6. Look into inositol.
Inositol is another nutrient that may be beneficial for female fertility. Many studies show that inositol supports healthy menstrual cycles and ovarian function. Other studies have found that inositol may support healthy egg and embryo quality and promote a healthy pregnancy. Inositols are produced naturally within your body, and can also be found in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts.
If you are in your mid-thirties or beyond, consider incorporating some of these tips into your health regimen. Monitor your blood pressure, incorporate regular exercise, and talk to your healthcare practitioner about your caffeine intake. Take a good quality preconception supplement and consider focusing on certain nutrients to help prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.