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Having babies later in life

When I interviewed Françoise Freedman for my book on later pregnancy and motherhood (Right Time Baby - The Complete Guide to Later Motherhood, Hay House 2011) I was 41 and the proud mum of a beautiful two year-old son. Françoise was one of the experts I sought out in order to gain more insight into women having babies after 35. Other world authorities quoted in the book are Dr Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin, Dr Christiane Northrup and Dr Marilyn Glenville. When I had my first child at 40 I couldn’t find any positive or up-to-date books on later motherhood so – with my background as a journalist – I decided to research and write about the subject myself. I wanted to write a positive and empowering book for women but for it to be factually correct it needed to be based on solid and medical-based research. I also included all the latest information from subjects like cell biology, nutrition and psychology. After reading volumes of studies, articles and books on the subject of fertility, pregnancy and motherhood (oh yes, I can be very nerdy and thorough!) and interviewing experts, I also spoke to over 65 women who had their babies later in life and this formed the basis for the book. The interview with Françoise was lots of fun and very enlightening. She was - as many of you know her to be - a real inspiration.

Now, two years after the book came out, at the age of nearly 45, I am pregnant with my third –naturally conceived – child. Some people tell me I’m lucky to have gotten pregnant so easily after 40. And of course I feel very blessed to have two healthy, bouncy children and a voluptuous, yummy six month baby bump but I don’t think it’s just about luck. I genuinely put all the fertility research I’d done into practice. This meant detoxing and eating a predominantly plant-based, wholefoods diet with minimal processed, refined manufactured foods. I keep fit by regular walking, swimming and yoga to get plenty of oxygenated blood flowing to the pelvis and reproductive organs. One of the important aspects of getting pregnant later in life is a positive mindset, despite what your environment may tell you. The warnings about fertility declining after 35 are all around us, although it has recently been revealed that the studies they’re based on are outdated and unrepresentative of modern women. New studies from respected medical journals indicate there is only about a 4-6% drop in fertility after 35. Women in our society are made to panic about ageing eggs from a young age and this has a negative effect on our ovaries. Science tells us that positive thoughts, affirmations and visualizations create neural connections that lead the body to believe something is true. I genuinely believed I would get pregnant when the time was right and trusted this belief. Belief is one of the body’s strongest medicines and for every emotion or thought the body has a matching chemistry.

Since becoming so interested in fertility I decided to further this expertise and help other women by studying to be a Health Consultant at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York. I also attended the recent Birthlight Fertility Yoga course in London. It was extremely useful and the group of women participating were all incredible.

I have also become fascinated with the cutting edge research in epigenetics and nutrigenomics. These sciences show that our genes are not fixed but can be changed by the environment we put them in. This includes the food we eat, the lifestyle we lead and the thoughts we think. Food, for example is information for the genes. It washes over them and switches certain genes on or off. This is very important in the pre-conception period because I’m convinced (and this is based on this emerging research) that the months when the egg follicle ripens and the sperm are produced determine how intact the DNA are for creating a healthy embryo. DNA molecules have the knowledge within them to repair and self-heal, given a nutrient-rich environment. So the conclusion would be that your health (or biological age) is more important than chronological age. I briefly addressed this during a recent interview on BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour (Friday July 5th, it stays up on the BBC internet archives for a year).

Apart from the fertility coaching and getting ready for my third baby (and boy will I be busy with three kids under 5!) I organise yoga retreats where mums can go with their kids. I set up HolyMama in Ibiza, Spain after successfully building up a yoga retreat in South Goa, India with my husband for five years. Mums can come on HolyMama with their babies, toddlers or small children. We have two Montessori-trained guides who look after the children every morning, so the mothers can go to the yoga class, eat breakfast together, relax and have massages, if they wish. We also have an amazing natural foods chef who cooks such delicious food both the mums and their kids love it. The house is very comfortable and each participant gets her own spacious room with en-suite bathroom for herself and her child. It’s a week where mothers have a chance to recharge, relax, deepen their yoga practice and find strength in mutual support. It’s also a week away from cooking, cleaning and tidying up. And who doesn’t crave that?

Claudia Spahr
Right Time Baby – The Complete Guide to Later Motherhood