Menopause is the period in which a woman no longer experiences her menstrual flow. This happens because the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones, which takes place in the ovaries, stops completely. Once this process is completed, pregnancy will no longer be possible because the eggs, which should be fertilized by sperm in order for the woman to conceive, will not be present in the body any more.
There is a misconception that the few years before a woman’s last menstrual period is also called menopause. However, this transitional time frame is actually called perimenopause.
Can You Get Pregnant During Menopause?
The answer is yes. You can get pregnant in the process of menopause or during perimenopause. During perimenopause, your menstrual cycle may become irregular, with your periods stopping and starting again in uneven time intervals. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that you have reached your menopause once your menstruation stops, as you may only be undergoing the transitional phase. It is best to wait at least a year before finally assuming that you are indeed menopausal. It may be useful to know that women usually experience menopause at around 51 years old, although some experience it at only 40 years and others as late as 55 years.
Additionally, menopause is not guaranteed when your period stops because of other pre-existing medical conditions. The best way to tell whether you are indeed menopausal is to ask your doctor. It is highly advisable to consult your doctor so you can be certain that you are indeed menopausal and not just experiencing perimenopause or some kind of medical condition.
After your menopause is through, your hormones will stop fluctuating and will stabilize at low levels. If your doctor confirms that you are indeed post-menopausal, you will no longer be able to conceive. This is because your ovaries will no longer have any eggs that may be released and become fertilized by sperm cells. Hence, you no longer need to worry about protection and contraception during intercourse.
On the other hand, while you are still in the process of experiencing your menopause, your ovaries still has a few remaining egg cells to release. This means that although it is improbable, you may still be able to conceive a baby during the few times you ovulate. However, getting pregnant during this time can be difficult and uncommon as the eggs your body releases may be old and unfit for a healthy pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy During Menopause
Besides "can you get pregnant during menopause", there are many other questions that you need to learn the answer.
Do I Still Need Contraception?
This is a very common concern among perimenopausal women. In fact, a study conducted in 2007 in Turkey, which focused on the use of contraceptive measures among perimenopausal women, showed that many women are unsure of when it is safe to discontinue their usage of contraceptives. Of the women who participated in the research, over 87% were sexually active.
Although a positive result for pregnancy is quite uncommon during your perimenopausal stage, it is still very much possible because of the presence of eggs in your uterus that may still be fertilized. Hence, unless you are intentionally planning on trying for a baby, it is important that you carry on using contraceptive measures to ensure that you do not end up getting pregnant. It would be best to wait for at least a year, or even more, after your last menstruation to be absolutely certain that you are indeed menopausal. Only then will it be safe to forego using contraception.
What Are the Risks of Pregnancy During Perimenopause?
- Miscarriage. A perimenopausal pregnancy increases the number of threats to the lives of both you and your child. The chances of a miscarriage increases drastically in a pregnancy that occurs at such a late age. This is due primarily to changes in the uterus, fluctuating hormone levels, and eggs with lower quality.
- Birth defects. The old and unfit egg cells released during perimenopause also create bigger risks that your baby will suffer from birth defects, including Down syndrome. This condition occurs when an extra chromosome is produced in his body during a disruption in the cell division process of development.
- Premature birth. Poor egg quality also increases the chances that your baby will be delivered prematurely. Premature births occur any time before your 37th week of gestation. They are linked to several complications, including, but not limited to, cerebral palsy and disabilities in learning and development.
- Risk for the mom: As for you, getting pregnant beyond the age of 40 increases your risk of having to undergo a C-section during delivery by over 50%. This is due to the decline in function of your uterus, which does not work as effectively to contract and push your baby out of your womb. You may also be more prone to experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the embryo is implanted outside of your uterus and can be life-threatening. Moreover, the rigors of pregnancy may be harder on you because of your older age and proneness to several complications including stroke, high blood pressure, heart problems, gestational diabetes, and seizures.
What If I’m in Perimenopause and Still Want to Have a Baby?
The key here would be to act quickly and keep trying for a baby as often as possible. You should also consult your doctor for a check-up and more advice, especially after six months of trying unsuccessfully. Conceiving will definitely be more difficult because your body is weaker and your fertility will decline slowly as you age. However, all hope is not lost, as there are many techniques and treatments available in the market that aim to enhance fertility, especially in older women who are trying to conceive. These include hormone therapy, egg donations, assisted reproduction, and artificial insemination.