An Honest Take on Getting Pregnant Naturally at 45

If you’ve landed on this page after a random web-search, you aren’t alone.  The topics of “natural pregnancy at 45” and “getting pregnant at 45” draw more visitors than any other to this blog, although I initially started it because of a book I wrote about my marriage, not about infertility or TTC per-se. I only have 2 other posts on this whole blog solely devoted to trying to conceive in my 40s, and together they get thousands of views each month (which is a lot, for me!) and have encouraged over 500 women to reach out directly over email to share their stories, or sometimes just their fears and frustrations. (You can do so here.)

So I’m compiling most of the information from them and adding a little more here to make it easier for readers to find all in one place. And if you’ve landed here because you are struggling with infertility, I hope this post gives you some comfort and especially helps banish any guilt you may be feeling about what you are or are not doing to have a baby. Please know that although I (probably) don’t know you personally, I’m keeping you in my thoughts.

The Basic Story

I got pregnant naturally at 45 and a half, and I delivered a healthy baby girl four months after I turned 46. She is our first and only child. I conceived her after more than four years of IVF and other fertility treatments in Japan, where we live and where my husband is from. During this 4 years, I’d had 2 miscarriages and a whole slew of diagnoses for my infertility.

“How did you get pregnant at 45?” people often want to know. Here’s how, I’m assuming: We got really lucky.

My husband and I both desperately wanted to have a child, but we didn’t consider using donor eggs or surrogates, because they are not approved in Japan, and because we desperately wanted a child that came from both of us biologically (a feeling I wrestled with and felt very conflicted over, but that was true, and that I wrote about for the New York Times.) I’d been diagnosed with high FSH, a luteal phase defect, a blood-clotting disorder, low progesterone, and inconsistent ovulation. As well, of course, as being old. I tried acupuncture, herbs, fertility yoga, and a whole slew of fertility diets and dietary restrictions to try to make my maternal age “younger.”

When I turned 45, we decided I’d stop all medical treatment, because the statistics on pregnancy at or past 45 with a woman’s own eggs were so dire. (My husband is 5 years younger and was in good procreative health, according to our doctors, so the issue was me, I felt sure.) I stopped all the fertility diets and acupuncture, too, as well as the special fertility yoga, although I continued to do regular yoga. I started drinking wine again and coffee whenever I wanted. I felt freer in some ways, but also very sad.

I had a deep, gnawing yearning to meet our baby, and I felt sure that our baby existed somewhere, but I was trying hard, after my 45th birthday, to adjust to the fact that I was probably never going to meet our baby or hold our baby, because of my age and all of the factors my doctors had said would prevent me from getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby.

Still, my husband and I continued to try to monitor my body’s cycles and to try to conceive a child naturally, mostly because my husband is an optimist and he convinced me there was no reason not to keep trying, and I couldn’t find a reason to disagree with him exactly.

When I was 45, my father in law got very ill. I loved him deeply, and I spent every day at the hospital in Osaka with him. My husband and I were both stressed and sad and very, very tired, so when I thought I might be ovulating, we tried to conceive but were so exhausted and overwhelmed we only managed to try once or twice a month for a while.

But one of those months I got pregnant. And now our daughter is 2, and she is perfectly healthy.

How My Pregnancy Contradicted Some of the Myths or Rules You May Be Struggling With

I’d be lying if I told you now that I know how I got pregnant naturally and delivered a healthy baby girl after I turned 46. And, no offense to anyone, but I’d guess that most people are lying–or at least are wrong–when they say they know the key to getting pregnant at an advanced age.

I tried really hard to be a good fertility patient–to eat the right foods and to avoid all the wrong ones, to stay healthy, to do the right things and not any of the wrong ones, etc.–and I always felt every month like I was failing.

I can’t say for sure that none of the acupuncture or fertility exercise or diets I followed had no impact, because I did end up getting pregnant. But I wasn’t following or remaining faithful to any of this for at least six months before I ended up conceiving, so I certainly won’t say that any of these myths or rules proved true for me, either, at least not for the month I got pregnant and the half-year or so leading up to it:

  • If you’ve never had a child or carried a pregnancy to term, you can’t get pregnant naturally and deliver a healthy baby after you turn 45.
  • Drinking coffee will stop you from getting pregnant.
  • Drinking wine and/or beer will stop you from getting pregnant. I’ve never been a heavy drinker and I hardly ever have hard alcohol, but I drank a glass or two of wine or beer almost every night from my 45th birthday on, up until I was about six weeks pregnant–until the moment we learned I was pregnant, or actually about a week before that, when I started to feel nauseous (which at the time we attributed to a stomach bug I assumed I’d picked up visiting my father-in-law in the hospital).
  • Being stressed out will stop you from getting pregnant. As I write above, I got pregnant during one of the most stressful times of my life. And seriously, who isn’t stressed out when trying to conceive after, about, the first month or two of trying.
  • Thinking negative thoughts will stop you from getting pregnant. Let’s just say I’m not an optimist. I had negative thoughts all the time while I was trying to conceive and I always felt irked by the advice to think positively (more about this below). Struggling with infertility sucks and is incredibly hard, so go ahead and forgive yourself a negative thought or two.
  • You will get pregnant once you stop trying. As I write, we were still trying, just not with medical intervention anymore.

Resources & Ideas to Support You if You’re Trying to Conceive

Although I don’t know exactly how or why I got pregnant at 45, I do know what helped me get through my years of infertility and losses, and get through it with my marriage enough intact that my husband and I were still happy to keep trying naturally after my 45th birthday. In the hopes that some of these things may help or at least give solace to some of you, here they are:

  1. Accepting both the sadness and the freedom that I didn’t have that much control over my own body: The number one thing that helped the most was actually something my dear friend Jenna said, which was roughly something like, “The most important thing to remember is that you have basically no control. Your body is just going to do its thing, and there is not much you can do to affect that one way or the other.” When she first said it, it sounded harsh and maybe even a little hopeless, but then when I thought about it, I realized both how true and also how freeing it was to accept that, for the most part, there was very little I could do to control–and thus very little I could do to ruin my chances of–getting pregnant. This may not be true for people who have structural impediments to conceiving or carrying a baby, but for many of us, whether or not our body produces a healthy egg and releases it at the right time and nurtures it the right way is something we cannot master. As I’ve mentioned, my doctors had so many reasons why I couldn’t produce or release or implant an egg normally without shots, pills, weeks of medical preparation, or another woman’s eggs, but in the end, my daughter’s first little cells formed, released, and took hold all by themselves. I didn’t even know about it until she was 7 weeks past conception.
  2. Accepting some negative or sad thinking while balancing that with an effort to take good care of myself as much as possible. Plus a podcast: I could never deal with the “positive thinking” movement–something else I write about a bit in my memoir.  First of all, unbridled optimism just isn’t my thing. But even more than that, it felt crushing to me to force myself to think happy thoughts about how an embryo was implanting or how I’d be pushing my baby in a carriage soon, and then every month to not get pregnant again.But I was able to find a resource that helped me combat negative thinking, which in turn helped keep me grounded in a space that balanced honesty with the tough odds I was facing, with solace and assurance that I was doing everything I could to stay healthy–and that I could feel good about that. I used podcasts by Belleruth Naparstek (especially the ones on fertility, anxiety, and general well-being). I liked these because they didn’t force false hope down my throat but enabled me to focus on staying healthy, but I think you could use anything meditative and it would help.
  3. Keeping up with my yoga as much as possible: Related to this, I did yoga almost daily, sometimes fertility-centered yoga but mostly just whatever kind of yoga routine I felt like I needed to feel best at the moment. I’m not saying that helped me get pregnant physically–or emotionally, for that matter. Plenty of people do yoga and still don’t get pregnant, and arguments about doing certain kinds of exercise (or diets, or thinking regimens) in order to get pregnant are specious at best, I believe, and dishonest at worst. But the yoga helped keep me strong and as relaxed as possible (which of course wasn’t very relaxed at all, especially not during treatment).Perhaps most of all, when I turned 45 and started to try to accept that my odds of getting pregnant with my own eggs had statistically dwindled to zero, the yoga really helped provide solace while I mourned. It also left me feeling like I hadn’t completely lost 4+ years of my life to infertility, because one thing the experience had given me was the ability to do so many more yoga moves than I’d even been able to do before. That, of course, wasn’t nearly equal to the pain of thinking we’d never be able to meet our baby, but it was something I was still grateful for, and finding anything I could be grateful for, at that point, helped.
  4. Keeping my focus on the love in my marriage, and on how lucky I was to have found my husband–child or no–also really helped me. Even after my husband and I gave up trying medically, remembering my love for my husband enabled me to know that we would be OK, that I would be OK, even if we never got to meet our baby. This was hugely helpful especially as I started to mourn the idea of having a child, when I turned 45 and we stopped all medical treatments and I thought my chances were basically nil. And if I hadn’t been able to get through all this with our partnership intact, then essentially I would never have been able to have my baby girl, because we wouldn’t have still been trying naturally.

I tell the story of how we waited for our daughter, and all the ups and downs this waiting entailed, in my book (The Good Shufu). But I post this now in the hope that it gives some comfort and encouragement to anyone who reads these words and is struggling to get pregnant or feels guilt about whether you are too stressed or doing the wrong thing to conceive. And I wish the same incredible good luck for you too.

The fastest way to get in touch with Tracy is here.

(Note: For more about trying to get pregnant, you can also see Getting Through to Getting Pregnant at 45 and On Delivering My First Child at 46, other blog posts I wrote in the hopes of supporting people slogging through infertility, although some of the content from these is reproduced in this post. I’ve also gotten quite a few questions about my pregnancy and birth experience, and I’ve written a bit more about those in the Washington Post online and in Brain, Child Magazine online — although please note that the picture in this latter article is not my daughter! It’s a stock photo the magazine used. In any case, I will continue to keep you all in my thoughts. Finally, if you’re *still* interested in my story [bless you for your patience if so!], the story of how I met and fell in love with my husband and then went through years of IVF and finally got pregnant naturally, is in my book The Good Shufu.))

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25 thoughts on “An Honest Take on Getting Pregnant Naturally at 45

  1. Sometimes when you’ve tried for soooo long (I’m 44 and my husband and I have tried for a decade now, which is basically 120 failures minus miscarriages), you can’t find the words to explain why you haven’t given up yet (or you HAVE given up, then grasped hope, then released it, exponentially), but this is the phrase you wrote that explains it: “I had a deep, gnawing yearning to meet our baby, and I felt sure that our baby existed somewhere.” That is precisely it. It’s knowing that you know that the soul exists and just trying to get to it. So happy for you after all the waiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kerbey. Thanks for your message. I’m so glad and touched that you found something in this post that resonated for you and let you know that others have shared your experiences, feelings, yearnings, questions, etc. I didn’t know that I’d ever get to meet our baby, and I’m still in shock–almost 3 years later–that she actually came to us healthy and whole and hold-able–but I knew that the yearning was real and that even if we never did get to meet our baby, all that we’d been through to try to meet her would still stand as a testament to our love for her, so the years of trying wouldn’t have been wasted, even if they were painful and even though we didn’t know how they would end up. I hope, no matter the outcome for you (and I’ll be keeping everything crossed for you that you have an outcome as lucky as ours), you’ll feel the same way. Please know you have someone thinking of you and pulling for you! Keeping you in my thoughts… Tracy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, im currently 45 and half, always wanted a baby from our love, but lost hope about 3 years ago when blood tests werent giving good results. Today, Im reading and looking for woman who have got pregnant at 45 and what they felt. Im 44 days and no period, feeling weird, nauseous today but still thinking is a peri menopaused symptom, because all I have read is about my chances to be none. Im waiting for my period, scared to do a pregnancy test and see another negative result… Can you tell me how you felt, in your body, the first couple of weeks before knowing you were pregnant?

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    1. Hi Hannah,

      So sorry for the delay–I’ve been traveling. I didn’t feel much of anything for the first few weeks of being pregnant with my daughter, up until about the 6th week, when I thought I’d caught a stomach bug because I was nauseous on and off. That lasted about a week, until I took an HPT at the urging of friends (I couldn’t believe I was pregnant naturally at 45 and a half) and then went to the dr to confirm the pregnancy. I’d had spotting a few weeks earlier but I figured that was a very light period; it turned out to be implantation spotting. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and keeping everything crossed for you! Please update us if you feel like it. Thinking of you.

      Tracy

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      1. Hi Tracy, thank you for your kind words… a day after I wrote I started spotting and got the weirdest period, if it was a period. Because it wasnt coming llike normal, I did a pregnancy test and came negative 😦
        So there they went my hopes…. I knew it was a very hard chance…
        But thank you for your words, and God Bless you and your family. You got a beautiful miracle in your hands 🙂

        Regards,

        H.

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      2. Hi H. I’m so sorry to read your news. I hope you are doing OK after what I’m sure is a really hard loss to bear. Please know I’ll be thinking of you and sending you every best wish in the world as you heal from this experience.

        With all my best wishes,

        Tracy

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  3. I am 45. Had a miscarriage at age 38. I was 5 or 6 weeks pregnant. I got pregnant again at 40/41 and lost that one early on as well. Seems I could get pregnant but just couldnt make a viable one. We gave up. As much as I wanted a child with my husband, I accepted that it wasn’t going to happen for us. I became content with that. I am now 45. My period was late, I felt more tired than normal. I took a test and it was positive!! I’m about 5 weeks pregnant and scared to death. Everytime I go to the bathroom I’m worried my period is going to come down and im going to lose this one like I did the others. I’m constantly checking for blood. I’ve been here before. To be so happy and full of joy only to be heart broken. Im just praying to get further along, and make it through the next few weeks. Once I do, I feel I will be okay.

    I have brown spotting which scares me. It seems to be normal from what I’ve read. But I’m just scared. I’m afraid to even have sex because of the fear that it will cause me to lose the baby. My first ultrasound appt is in 2 weeks. I will be 7/8 weeks by then. I’m just hoping to still be pregnant by then.

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    1. Hi Ashanti. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I also had 2 miscarriages before my pregnancy at 45, with my now 3 y/o daughter. And I also had spotting early in that pregnancy, which I actually thought at the time was my period.

      I understand how scary it can be–while also absolutely miraculous-feeling–to be pregnant at 45. I spent my entire pregnancy in a sort of fog of fear and disbelief, as well as a kind of quite joy I didn’t want to believe in, in case it turned out to be unfounded, and I also felt a little terrified every time I went to the bathroom that I would see blood. I don’t know what to say to dispel your anxiety, but please know that 1) it *is* sometimes possible to get pregnant naturally, even with your first child, at 45 and to deliver a healthy baby, as I was lucky enough to do, and 2) I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and hoping for all good things for you, your family, and your growing embryo.

      Please feel free to update us if you like, but either way, please know you have someone out there thinking of you, rooting for you, and keeping everything crossed for you.

      With all my very best wishes,

      Tracy

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    1. Hi there. Just wanted to update you and let you know that we lost the baby. Again. But, we accept it and may even try again once this bleeding stops. What this experience has taught us is that we can get pregnant and it is possible that it will happen again. Thank you so much. If I get good news again, I will come back and share!

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      1. Hi Tee. I’m so sorry to read your news, and I really appreciate you updating us during what I’m sure must feel like a difficult time. I also really admire your outlook and your ability to see this as a sign of potential alongside the loss. Like so many women I come across who are trying to get pregnant in their 40s, you are strong and wonderful and an inspiration. Please do come back and share your good news when or if it happens, and please know that I and the other readers of this blog will also be here for you if or when you are feeling discouraged, too, and just want to vent about that. In the meantime, I will be keeping you in my thoughts and keeping you in my heart, too, as you go through the post-miscarriage sadness.

        With all my very best wishes to you and yours,

        Tracy

        PS. I’m thinking of trying to publish something about women dealing with miscarriage in their 40s, in honor of and thanks to the women like you who contact me because of this blog–either in the comments or who just email me directly–and because I think there is something unique about the experience of pregnancy loss as we age. The sadness and fear and wisdom and courage that, it seems, especially women in their 40s possess and display after miscarriage. Of course, I would keep all personal and identifying information confidential.

        Along these lines, I wonder if, in the next few weeks, you’d be willing to let me know if anything in particular occurs to you (about how the experience might differ for you than for any younger women you know who have gotten over or who are currently healing from a miscarriage, and especially about what helps you deal with the experience as a woman in your 40s). If you are too busy or don’t feel like writing any more about it, I completely understand, but if you have anything to share, I’d love to hear it either here or through the contact form on my author site (http://www.tracyslater.com/contact/).

        I may also put this request for input as a full post on the blog, so if you see it repeated there, don’t be surprised! I’m not sure I can carve out the time right now to write this piece, but I’m going to try.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I am about to turn 45 years but l want to get pregnant and am looking to have a baby boy but l am afraid since some they say you will conceive a down syndrome is that true of my age

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      1. Hi Mercy.

        Here’s what I’ve found on this issue: According to Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), “Babies conceived by older mothers are at a much greater risk for Down’s syndrome: At age 40, the risk is 1 in 100, which is 10 times higher than the risk of a 25-year-old (1 in 1250). By age 49, the risk is 1 in 10.” (From http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/pregnancy#2. ). So this still means that 9 our of 10 babies born to women aged 49 will *not* have Downs, and we can assume an even higher percentage will not have Downs when the mother is 45.

        Wishing you all the very best!

        Tracy

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  4. I’m reading this with my five month old sleeping on my lap while my 17 year old eats cereal in the kitchen. I had my second son, and third child, at 46 and two months. He was a wonderful surprise for us, and we feel like the luckiest parents in the world.

    It’s humbling to read the comments and know how fortunate we really are that we’ve never experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage or the struggle of infertility.

    I have no idea how we managed to have a baby so late in life, but it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. Congratulations on your child, and best of luck to the other ladies out there hoping for babies of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jessica, thanks so much for leaving this message! I get dozens of emails every week month from woman who have found hope in my ability to get pregnant and have a healthy baby at 46, and I know that reading your comment and hearing your good wishes will add even more hope and comfort for many of them. Congratulations to you as well, and all the very best to you and yours! Go later-life mamas!

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  5. This is the very first time after I would imagine 100’s of sites I’ve read that I have every responded to, but this one hits close to home. My true love of my life is someone is someone only reunited with after 27 years. I never knew he was in love with me in high school. No idea. 2 years ago we started talking on the phone and fell in love. More in love than anything I’ve ever known that ‘that’ word meant. 7 months on the phone and finally he was there in front of me. We’ve been together 1 year and 3 months now and he has never had a child of his own. We want that so much and I fear so much that we’ve missed the chance. What you say gives me hope. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Candace, I’m so glad what you’ve found here on the blog offers you hope in a helpful way, and I’m also so glad to read that you found your true-love sweetie after all this time. What a lovely story! Thanks for sharing it here. I will be keeping you in my thoughts and wishing all the very best wishes for you. Please feel free to update us here! And please know that I will be pulling for you.

      With all my very best,

      Tracy

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  6. Hi Tracy,

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    I will be 45 in just over a month. My husband and I have been TTC for the past 5 years. I have been through everything from having fibroids removed to IVF to acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Before any kind of treatment, there was one time I was 2 weeks late for my period. Obviously, was not to happen then. After I started getting medical advice, the closest we have come, in my mind, is me being 9 days late for my period back at Christmas. I thought “what a great Christmas present that would be?” – again, not to happen.

    I was told by the fertility clinic the reason for not having a successful IVF treatment was the quality of my eggs. All my results were impressive “for someone my age”, except the end result. My husband, the forever pessimist, does not believe we can get pregnant without help. I, on the other hand, am forever the optimist – I believe I will get pregnant one day.

    I am grateful for your blog and to be able to read stories from others who are trying to get pregnant in their mid-40s. And that we are not crazy that it’s not happening! It helps to finally read something either than medical posts on what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

    Like

    1. Hi Cafie,

      Thanks so much for leaving your comment and sharing some of your story here, and for taking the time to let me know that you’e found some stuff here that is useful. I’m the eternal pessimist in the marriage and my sweetie the eternal optimist, and he was right in the end, so here’s hoping you prove the optimist right in your marriage, too!

      It’s interesting how many women I hear from–either here or who email me directly–who tell me that they feel like others make them feel guilty or crazy for trying to get pregnant in their mid-40s. And while I know it’s not common for a woman to get pregnant, especially naturally, and have a healthy baby at our age, I also know it’s not impossible. And that, at least in my case, neither drinking wine nor coffee nor experiencing a lot of stress mattered at all.

      Now I’m wishing the same good luck for you. Please know I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and keeping everything crossed for you–and that you can come back to the blog and post someday about your own little one!

      Like

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