The most fertile years of a woman's life are those between 18 and 28. Even into the mid-thirties, it is usually fairly easy to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. During these years the hormones that control ovulation, enhance conception, and ensure a healthy pregnancy are usually made easily and in generous quantities. And detrimental life-style choices have not had decades of repetition to create chronic problems.
But more and more women are waiting until their late thirties, early forties, even late forties, to have children. Is this too late? Are these destined to have high-risk pregnancies? Will these children have more birth defects?
The answer to these questions - and others like them - is "no!" for wise women who enlist the help of green allies to increase fertility, ensure conception, prevent birth defects, and promote a healthy pregnancy and an easy delivery.
Increasing Fertility; Ensuring Conception
Increase your chances of conception by meditating. Cultivating a calm attitude, not surprisingly, enhances fertility. Even taking a quiet five minutes alone just for you, free of all responsibilities, can bring big results if done frequently enough.
Use lunaception to time your ovulation so you have the best odds of conceiving. It's fine to have sex in the weeks before ovulation, especially if the sex is focused on the woman and her orgasm, but do save your best efforts for those three nights when your "moon" is full and bright and ready to frolic.
Orgasm on the part of the male is necessary for fertilization. The woman's orgasm does increase the possibility of conception. Women who experience orgasm after their partner (up to 40 minutes after his ejaculation) have the very best chance of becoming pregnant.
Red clover is the single best remedy for women over forty who want to conceive but can't- even if there are medical reasons for not conceiving such as blocked tubes, diabetes, ovarian cysts, internal scarring, or endometriosis. There are many heart-warming success stories I could share about red clover! But suffice to say, drinking 2-4 cups of the infusion of the dried blossoms (neither tincture nor tea nor pills will work for this application) seems to do wonders for fertility, no matter what your age.
Preventing Birth Defects
Boosting your nutritional status makes birth defects less of a worry. Women who drink 2-4 cups of stinging nettle infusion daily and eat cooked leafy greens as well as lettuce salads are getting the abundant folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals needed to create a healthy baby. (Tinctures, pills, and teas contain little or none of these important nutrients.)
Vitamin E is an especially critical nutrient for fertility after forty and freedom from birth defects. Freshly-ground wheat flour, cold-pressed oils, and nut butters are all good sources of vitamin E, as are stinging nettle infusion and most cooked seaweed, such as kelp. The man's vitamin E level has as much, if not more, bearing on freedom from birth defects as does the woman's vitamin E level.
Avoid heat, both of you. Hot tubs, even prolonged soaking in a hot bath, can cause temporary (up to several months) sterility in some men. In women, it can endanger the early embryo and trigger a miscarriage or birth defects.
Avoid drugs, both of you, including alcohol, tobacco, coffee, as well as over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs (except those you absolutely need). Your liver needs to be strong and so do your kidneys, so you can conceive and gestate a child. Instead of alcohol, which damages the liver, drink herbal infusions or alcohol-free wine or beer. Instead of tobacco, which may contribute to birth defects and low birth weight, try smoking a little dried peppermint, or, better yet, go for a walk. Instead of coffee, which challenges the kidneys, you may wish to drink green tea or black tea, or try coffee substitutes, especially the one made with dandelion roots. Instead of drugs to ease everyday aches and pains, use the gentle herbal remedies in this book instead.
Ambivalence about pregnancy and parenthood is normal and natural. But the older a woman gets, the more complicated her emotions about it may be. Add to her emotional soup pot strong opinions from family and friends, confusing information spread by the popular media, and fear-inducing pronouncements from "helpful" medical professionals, and that pot will be in danger of boiling over. Herewith then, some wise woman hints for keeping your cool in the midst of overt and covert confusion.
Contrary to current opinion, having children in your forties is ordinary and common worldwide. The Bible mentions several women having children in their fifties. What is unusual and unique to our time is having a first child in one's forties. Our mother’s, mother’s, mothers were having their fifth or eighth or tenth child when they were in their forties, not their first. If people tell you it just isn't done, close your eyes and call upon the spirit of your great-great-great-great grandmother, then smile and tell them it seems utterly ordinary to you.
Feeling tense and distressed about choosing or refusing motherhood? Motherwort tincture is my favorite calmative. A dose of 10-20 drops helps clear your mind, eases your tension, and assists you in discerning the best path to follow.
Bach flower remedies excel as helpers when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Try:
Aspen when you feel anxious, apprehensive, or afraid of the unknown.
Mimulus when you are dwelling on a specific fear.
Elm when you feel overwhelmed or inadequate.
Red Chestnut when you are afraid for or worried about your baby to be.
Rock Rose when you are trembling, shaking, or weeping from anxiety or fear.
Regular gentle massage or Reiki treatments [editorial note: see our Reiki section at Satya Center for more information on Reiki and Reiki Services] not only help you calm your distress, they also guide you in creating a strong center that's resistant to being pushed around by other people's opinions. Massage and/or Reiki also help prepare your mind/body for a healthy pregnancy and a safe birth.
Special Allies for Pregnant Women over Forty
The single most important herb for pregnant women over forty is comfrey (Symphytum uplandica hybrids). The leaves of the mature plant contain an abundance of constituents beneficial to mother and babe, including generous amounts of minerals, alantoin, proteins, and many vitamins. The minerals in comfrey help ensure healthy nervous system growth; the fetus’s developing brain uses the proteins. And the alantoin helps the mother's tissues become stretchy and elastic.
Aging can lead to increased stiffness and brittleness in bones and muscles, making pregnancy more arduous and painful, labor slower and more difficult, and injury more likely during birth. The hormones of pregnancy, which help soften and relax the pelvic tissues, may not be produced in adequate amounts. Comfrey comes to the rescue! Comfrey creates flexible and strong tissues throughout the body especially mucus surfaces (including intestines, uterus, bladder and vagina), the bones, the ligaments and tendons, and the skin.
Regular use of the leaf infusion, at least a quart a week, promotes a safe delivery by:
*strengthening uterine muscles and preparing them to work easily and well
*strengthening perineal tissues so they become resistant to tearing
*strengthening uterine ligaments so the uterus does not prolapse
*strengthening the bladder and increasing resistance to bacterial infection
*strengthening the vagina and helping to promote an environment hostile to infection
*providing easily assimilated minerals to prevent eclampsia and other complications
*helping the bones of the pelvis flex and open during birth
*increasing iron in the blood and thus forestalling post-partum hemorrhage.
I harvest the flowering stalks when they are fully formed; and I am careful to use the cultivated garden comfrey, which grows very tall and has purplish, pinkish, bluish flowers. I avoid wild comfrey, which stays rather small even when flowering, and has cream-colored, white, or yellowish flowers.
Some people feel that comfrey is not safe to use during pregnancy. Some people feel comfrey is not safe to use internally at all. I disagree. The roots of comfrey do contain compounds that are best avoided during pregnancy (as do all parts of the wild plant). In fact, I rarely use comfrey root because of the possibility of liver congestion, and I strongly caution those who have had hepatitis, chemotherapy, or alcohol problems to strictly avoid comfrey root. Yet even these people can benefit from use of comfrey leaf infusions.
Another important herbal ally for women over forty who desire a child is chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castii). It has been used in Africa and parts of Europe for several thousand years to discourage the male libido. In women, the effects seem to be the opposite! It may also be a fertility enhancer. Most importantly, chaste tree is a strengthening tonic for the pituitary gland, the master control gland for the endocrine system. Daily use of the tincture of the berries (1 dropperful/1 ml 2-3 times daily) had been shown to increase progesterone - the hormone of pregnancy - and luteinizing hormone - which promotes conception. Because it can lower prolactin levels, chaste tree is best discontinued during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is not recommended for women over forty. In general, this herb promotes blood flow to the uterus and surrounding tissues. This can promote the growth of fibroids and increase the risk of post-partum hemorrhage. Ginger is a better warming tonic; motherwort is better at relieving pain; and raspberry is better at preparing the uterus for birth.
(Reprinted with the kind permission of the author)
copyright 2000 by Susun S. Weed
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SusunWeed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health. Visit her website for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Browse the publishing site Ash Tree Publishing to learn more about her alternative health books. Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.
(Photos by Jane Sherry with the exception of the author provided by SusunWeed.com. Also the photo accompanying the section on red clover is of a tea mixture sold in our store [late November 2005], the top ingredient pictured is red clover.)