It is not unusual to wonder if you can still get pregnant as you enter the menopausal stage of life. It’s important to understand this transitional time of life.
Even without the hot flashes and irregular periods, it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant, fertility specialist, Dr Abayomi Ajayi says. It only means you’re probably a lot less fertile than you once were.
Note that you haven’t officially reached menopause until you have gone a whole year without a period. Once postmenopausal, your hormone levels would have changed enough to the extent that your ovaries won’t release any more eggs. What this means is that you can no longer get pregnant naturally.
As the years pass and technology improves, the barrier to pregnancy gets pushed farther and farther back. It used to be thought that women shouldn’t try to get pregnant after a certain age, say 40-45, but all that is history.
Today, women in their late 40s, 50s are pushing the pregnancy barrier farther than ever imagined a couple of decades ago.
If you are seeking advanced reproductive techniques, such as IVF to assist in achieving a pregnancy, you have the chance because the ceiling of reproduction has been lifted such that almost any healthy woman, regardless of age, can successfully mother a child.
If you’ve already hit menopause—meaning you haven’t had a period in 12 months or more—but you would still like to get pregnant, it is much possible, all thanks to a process called in vitro fertilisation (IVF).Menopause itself is a single point in time 12 months after a woman has her last period. When you’re no longer getting your period, your body is officially done with its reproductive years for good, and you cannot get pregnant naturally after menopause.
Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. During your reproductive years, you produce estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones. Ovulation doesn’t occur unless your hormone levels are within the optimal range. If your egg is fertilised, there is still enough progesterone produced to maintain the pregnancy.
After the menopause, a woman no longer produces eggs and thus cannot become pregnant naturally. But although eggs succumb to this biological clock, pregnancy is still possible using a donor egg. Therefore, if a woman obtains an egg from a younger woman transferred into her uterus, pregnancy can be achieved all things being equal.
As a woman, you have two biological clocks – one for your ovaries, which seem to run out, and one for the rest of your reproductive system, which seems to go on. All that’s needed is a little priming with the hormones – estrogen and progesterone – followed by a donated, healthy, fertilised egg. There are side effects expectedly, such as Cesarean Sections, however, these side effects are usually tolerable enough that a 50 or 60-something-year-old woman shouldn’t completely discount the possibility of pregnancy.
If you are an older woman wishing to have children, you need not delay consulting fertility experts. Egg donation is one of the largest approaches for post menopausal pregnancies in the world today. Outcomes have been favourable, but there are medical conditions that can influence the pregnancy. Of course, you will be using an egg from a younger person, so there’s no increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. This is another bonus.
The term – perimenopause – is a time of transition of “change of life.” It means your ovaries are starting to produce less of these hormones. As your hormone levels fluctuate, you may start noticing symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Your periods are getting irregular in length and frequency. Your ovaries may release an egg some months, but not others.
During perimenopause, your periods may seem to have stopped, but then they start up again. That can happen many times, which can trick you into thinking you’ve reached menopause even though you haven’t.
If it’s been an entire year since your last period, then you’ve reached menopause. This may occur somewhere between 40 and 55, with 51 as average. Once you’ve reached menopause, you no longer ovulate and you cannot conceive a child. Once you’re postmenopausal, your hormone levels will never again be in the suitable range for ovulation and pregnancy. Birth control is no longer necessary.
You can, however, get pregnant during perimenopause, or the lead-up to menopause. During perimenopause, women can have irregular periods, along with other perimenopausal symptoms, for quite a while until they officially hit menopause.
Perimenopause typically starts mid-40s, and can last about four years until periods fully stop. That means, until you’ve officially hit menopause, you can still conceive naturally. You ovulate infrequently, but you still ovulate. So, even if you’re going through perimenopause, if you don’t want to get pregnant, it’s wise to still use a birth control method.
We know that there is a proportion of women in their early 40s who are successful in becoming pregnant with their own eggs spontaneously, while many others are able to conceive in cooperation with an egg donor. The likelihood of becoming pregnant is significantly higher when enrolled in an egg donor programme.
For most pregnancies, the most significant risk factor is not how the pregnancy was conceived but the age the woman achieves the pregnancy. One point to note is that pressing the boundaries of reproduction in women of advanced age can be complicated by undiagnosed underlying medical conditions. Such factors, like a decrease in the reserve of the cardiovascular system and the diminished ability to adapt to physical stress both may accompany advancing age and may combine to increase risks to the mother and the baby.
If you are in your 40s or 50s, you should expect to have some mild increase in pregnancy related issues. However, if you are well monitored, you should anticipate a successful result. It is recommended that you seek advice of a reproductive specialist for a medical history and physical examination. You would also undergo various tests as part of your pre-conceptional evaluation.
When the assessment is completed, you’ll be counselled suitably as to what your potential risks may be. As an older patient, you are approximately three times more likely to deliver by Caesarean Section, three to 10 times more likely to experience pregnancy induced hypertension and two to five times more likely to encounter diabetes compared to younger women. However, appropriately screened, you as a healthy woman in your 50s, carrying a singleton pregnancy, can expect your gestation to go practically full term and deliver a baby that is approximately the same weight as counterparts half your age.
Although there does not appear to be any medical reason for excluding you from attempting to become pregnant on the basis of age alone, it is recommended you seek the attention of a reproductive specialist who is aware of these complexities, in order that you may be thoroughly screened and deemed as an appropriate candidate to experience a favourable outcome.