Written by PCOS Dietitian, Kendra Tolbert, MS, RD, RYT
If you’re anything like most of my clients (and me), you always imagined you’d be a mom one day. You always planned it would happen someday, but somehow, time slipped by a little faster than you expected. Maybe it was grad school or pursuing your dream career. Or maybe, it was the desire to travel or not finding a partner until later in life. Whatever the reason, babies were on the back burner. And now, you’re in your 30s and wondering if it’s too late.
I have good news for you, it’s not.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what the research really says about fertility, getting pregnant, and aging. Plus, we’ll explore some ways to naturally increase your fertility in your 30s. No matter if you’re in your early, mid, or late 30s, it’s never too late to optimize your fertility and increase your chances of conceiving.
The Research on Fertility and Aging
You’ve likely heard fertility begins to decline as you age. That’s true. But I personally think how quickly that happens tends to be exaggerated. I know when I first found out that fertility begins to drop in our late 20s and begins to decrease even faster at age 35, I had this picture in mind:
Fortunately, I was wrong. This is closer to what really happens:
Yeah, there’s a dip. But it’s a dip, not a nosedive.
A study cited in these guidelines, found women 30-34 years old have an 86% chance of getting pregnant within one year of trying to conceive and a 94% chance of conceiving after two years. For women 35-39, there’s an 82% chance of conceiving after one year and a 90% chance of conceiving after two years.
While these numbers are lower than the numbers we see in women 19-26 years old (92% after one year, 98% after two) and 27-29 years old (87% after one year, and 95% after 2 years), they’re not nearly as dismal as I previously believed.
And we don’t know what these women’s lifestyles looked like. There are some healthcare providers (and forms of traditional medicine) that believe the changes we see in reproductive potential as people age has less to do with chronological age and more to do with biological age. Just something to consider!
How to Improve Your Fertility in Your 30s
1. Talk to your healthcare provider
As soon as you even start thinking about trying to conceive, go talk to your provider. Let them know you’re planning to TTC soon. Go over your menstrual cycle health with them. Ask to have labs done to rule out conditions like hypothyroidism, amenorrhea, PCSO, and nutrient deficiencies that can impair your fertility. Set yourself up for success!
2. Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods
I’m convinced the two most important things in nutrition are eating enough and eating a variety of foods. Eating enough (which far too few women are doing) ensures your body has enough energy to fuel the very energy-intense process of developing a mature egg, ovulating, conceiving, and carrying a baby to term. While variety ensures your body is getting in the vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal reproductive wellbeing.
Make sure to look for ways to include plenty of antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods, drinks, herbs, and spices. These can protect your cells (remember, your eggs are cells and all of your organs are made up of cells) from oxidative damage. Some options include:
colorful fruits and vegetables (remember white is a color. Don’t believe the “all white foods are bad” stuff.)
dry, fresh, or frozen herbs
dry, fresh, or frozen spices
teas and tisanes
nuts and seeds
olives and olive oil
cold water fish
3. Replenish nutrients lost from birth control use
Birth control pills can deplete vitamins and minerals. Eating a variety of foods and taking a multivitamin or prenatal can help to replace those valuable nutrients you might have lost being on the pill. This is another reason you’ll want to go see your doctor and have your nutrient levels checked before you start trying to conceive. You might need a higher dose of some vitamins and minerals than what you’ll find in a multi or prenatal vitamin (click here for some of my favorite brands of prenatal and multivitamins) to get your levels back to normal. I have an entire post on BCP and nutrients you can read here.
4. Prioritize sleep and stress management
Is it just me or do not give these two pillars of health and fertility enough attention? Sometimes I feel like we’re so focused on food and fitness that we totally skip over the other things that play as much of a role in our well-being. Not only do both stress management and sleep impact reproductive and overall wellness, but they also undergird nutrition and exercise. It’s really hard to eat well and be active when you’re tired and stressed out.
Here are some quick tips to support restorative rest and stress relief:
Do more of what makes you happy. Cliche, I know. But seriously, joy and pleasure are underrated. Simple things like snuggling with a pet, watching something funny on Netflix, or dancing to an old pop song can work wonders.
Spend time with people you love, virtually or (safely) in person.
Get outside and disconnect from your digital life. Time in nature is rejuvenating and healing on so many levels. Go get some fresh air and sunshine, friend.
Limit your screen time before bed. I struggle with this one but I’m working on it. I definitely notice a difference in the quality of my sleep when I put my phone and laptop away well before bedtime. Give it a try.
Find a way to chill out before bed. For me, that looks like yoga, journaling, and reading a book. Your way doesn’t have to look like my way. Do what works for you.
5. Reverse the effects of aging with yoga and meditation
Come on, you had to have known it was coming. I’m a yoga teacher, after all. Seriously though, both yoga and meditation have the potential to reverse or at least stave off the age-related changes to DNA that can negatively affect fertility. Aim to practice yoga and/ or meditate 2-3 times a week, more if time permits. And it doesn’t have to be an hour-long practice. Just get started with whatever time you have even if it’s just 5 minutes a day.
Bonus Tip! Stop beating yourself up over waiting
I could camp out here all day! But I won’t. Friend, stressing about your age, wallowing in regrets, and berating yourself for not trying to get pregnant sooner will do nothing to improve your chances. It will only leave you feeling guilty, ashamed, and drained. There is no shame in living a life filled with memories, experiences, and learning opportunities. That’s a fertile life. Fertility is more than conception and reproduction. It’s about being full, creative, productive, and any other words that pop into your head when you think of fertility.
I hope these tips give you some direction and hope. It’s never too late to improve your chances.