I’m Over 40 and Considering IVF: How Do I Prepare For The Journey Ahead?

IVF over 40_CoFertility

Perhaps you’ve decided to wait to have kids. Whether it was due to your career, relationship, chapter in life, or you weren’t ready to become a mother. The road to motherhood isn’t always linear, and that’s ok. For hopeful moms over the age of 40, the journey to conceive can be intimidating to navigate. Whether you and your partner have been trying for several weeks, months, or years, or tried several other treatments, perhaps you’ve begun diving into the ins and outs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and it feels like a whole different world.

I hear you.

When I hit 30, I wasn’t quite ready to have kids as I was navigating a divorce, owning and running a thriving business, and everything in between. At the time, I decided I would freeze my eggs. At the direction of my doctor, he told me to come back when I was closer to 35 to freeze my eggs, so I did the IVF process of freezing eggs at 36. I later met the love of my life and remarried at the age of 40, which was when we decided to start a family.

While navigating this journey towards pregnancy, I was met with many low points and a ticking time bomb. I was 41 years old when we started the fertility journey. The process was brutal and I felt like time was slipping out of my hands like sand. Every month my period would come; I thought to myself, “where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve this?”

Fast forward several years later, and a miscarrigage in between as well as a whole lot more ups and downs along the way, I’m now blessed with three healthy boys. I’ve been a Certified Life Coach for over 10 years, but my own fertility journey prompted me to specialize in supporting the trying to conceive (TTC) community to help them navigate their journey to motherhood. So, if you’ve been considering the IVF route, or you’re about to begin the process, know that you can do it and that you’re not alone. I’m breaking down all the things to know beforehand and what to expect so you can feel empowered to start your fertility journey.

1. Be Open to Making Lifestyle Changes

My fertility experience came to a point where it felt like it was a second job on top of my career. From doctor appointments to lab tests, injection times, ultrasounds—all while trying to make sure other elements of my life like nutrition and exercise were in tip-top shape—it was a lot to take on.

I quickly found that the key to navigating all of these changes was to find alignment between my partner and me. I shifted my perspective from this being my own experience to ours. We’re a team, and there needs to be a balance between the two of us. Through open communication and constant check-ins, we were able to make sure we were there for each other during a time when we both needed it most.

2. Use Meditation to Prepare Your Mindset

Your mindset is one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings. It’s crucial to have a strong mindset when it comes to the ups and downs of IVF or even the uncertainty of starting this process.

While on my fertility journey, I found days when I felt defeated or let results or news dictate my entire day. One day, I woke up and decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to let my situation control whether or not I was having a good day or a bad day. My emotional destiny was in my own hands, and I was ready to take control back. Some ways I tackled this day in and day out was through:

  • Meditating
  • Journaling
  • Mindset Shifts

I rotated between meditating for a few minutes each day, writing positive affirmations, or creating dedicated time for me to do what I enjoy doing—whether that was daily movement, going out for a walk, or meeting up with a girlfriend. I love Expectful’s guided IVF meditations as they’re designed to guide you through the experiences of egg harvesting and embryo transfer treatments, and their library is packed with meditations for beyond your IVF treatment, too.

What’s important to remember is that it’s all about finding what works best for you. If sitting in stillness for two or three minutes a day feels approachable, start there. On the other hand, if it’s putting pen to paper and writing out your thoughts and feelings, why not give it a try? You may find that these small changes can significantly impact your life and experience through IVF and in the relationship with your spouse.

3. Understand It’s a Journey and Not a Race

Navigating IVF over 40 and your fertility journey as a whole can feel like a rat race. You’re faced with all these obstacles that feel like a ticking clock as your window for pregnancy feels as if it’s only getting smaller. But the key to all of this is to remember: it’s a journey, and it’s not a rush to the finish line. There will be highs and lows, and the more you’re able to ride alongside them versus against them, you will experience success.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was to stop trying to control the process and rush to the end. Instead, I learned to let go and put my complete trust in myself and those surrounding me, from my doctors, partner, and close family and friends.

4. Explore Nutrition

I strongly believe that the types of food, vitamins, and minerals you feed your body can substantially impact your fertility success. So, when it comes to food, I encourage my clients to stick with foods rich in healthy fats, proteins, fiber, and greens to help increase their chances to conceive.

Here’s a few other favorite foods I recommend:

  • Avocado: Avocado toast, anyone? Avocado is jam-packed with healthy, unsaturated fats and fiber to maintain healthy brain function and regulate hormones.
  • Salmon: Fish high in Omega-3s are a great addition to your diet. Just be sure to double check any fish that you are eating has lower levels of mercury.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Walnuts, sunflower seeds, and beans provide a significant amount of folic acid, which is good for a fertility diet. They’re also ideal sources of fat to improve ovulation.
  • Water: One of the first questions I ask potential clients embarking on their fertility journey is how much water they’re drinking daily. Staying hydrated is a critical element to making sure your body functions properly. Grab a water bottle and take it with you wherever you go!
  • Leafy Greens: All fruits and vegetables play an important role in your health and trying to conceive, but when it comes to “greens,” the darker the better. Stick to greens that are dark and leafy, like kale, swiss chard, collared, or beet greens. They’re high in fiber, folic acid, and iron—all ideal for strengthening your reproductive health.
  • High-Fat Dairy: If you’re not sensitive to dairy products, give whole milk or full-fat yogurt a try as they’ve been shown to decrease infertility.

5. Incorporate Vitamins & Supplements

Even with a well-maintained diet, you might find that incorporating a few essential vitamins and supplements may improve your fertility. But before you go to your nearest health food store to grab all the supplements, it’s vital to consider the brand’s manufacturing process and efficacy to make sure you’re getting the best of the best.

Also, be sure to find out if it is something in fact that your body needs to supplement. For example, if your bloodwork comes back that you have a great Vitamin D level, you probably don’t need to be taking more. If you’re unsure of which supplements to go with, always consult with your doctor first.

Some vitamins I know and love and recommend to my clients navigating IVF over 40 include:

  • Coenzyme Q10: This supplement is also known as CoQ10, and it plays a key role in cell production. When it comes to IVF, it can improve ovarian response and sperm mobility.
  • Vitamin D3/K2: Did you know that over 1 billion people are deficient in vitamin D? Vitamin D regulates 2,000 genes in your body every day, including ovarian stimulation and semen quality.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Trace Minerals: Minerals like zinc, selenium, folate, and manganese are beneficial for maintaining your health at a cellular level.
  • Magnesium: Helping over 300 enzymatic processes like protein synthesis, blood pressure regulation, never function, and more, magnesium plays an essential role in your body.

6. Find Your Community

While your fertility journey may feel isolating, know that you’re not alone. None of us grow up thinking that we would be dealing with infertility, but we can change the way it looks and feels.

When I was going through my fertility journey and faced the realities of infertility, I felt so alone in this process. The social media communities were not as strong and supportive as they are now, and in that time where I felt isolated and that no one understood exactly what I was going through, it made my journey ten times harder. It was here that I realized we needed to build more communities and show women going through this that there are other women out there experiencing the same thing. It’s why I focused on my online community and had this need to assist hopeful moms in shifting their mindsets and finding their people throughout their TTC journey.

When it comes to seeking doctors and assembling your fertility team, ask all the questions! You have a right to know what kind of approach they take, what their experience entails, and if you truly feel comfortable around them. When meeting with a potential doctor, be sure to ask them about their protocols and lab experience. Ask for their statistical numbers. Meet with the rest of the team from medical assistants to nurses, and so on. You will potentially be spending a lot of time with these individuals going through one of the most pivotal moments of your life—it’s crucial that you feel at ease around them!

The fertility journey may feel like a rollercoaster of twists, turns, and wild ups and downs. It’s essential to surround yourself with experts, individuals, and a community who are not only going to lift you when you feel down but who know what you’re going through, too.

Elizabeth King

Elizabeth King is a certified fertility health coach, master certified ICF life coach, birth and bereavement doula, and new parent educator. For more information on Elizabeth’s work, be sure to check out her Instagram at @elizabethking_coaching.