You may be asking, “can you get pregnant after menopause.” While it may seem far fetched to think about getting pregnant in menopause, this is a question that every sexually active woman should ask herself. Because the reality is, if you are having some form of a period, even every few months, you could still get pregnant. Let’s talk about how careful you really need to be and when you can confidently put the birth control aside (hint: it is the same time that you can donate your unused pads and tampons!)
Let’s define our stages.
First things first, we have to identify the different stages of menopause. There are four stages of menopause:
Premenopause - The time before a woman enters perimenopause. Typically, she has few, if any, symptoms of perimenopause.
Perimenopause - An 8-10 year window (on average) where a woman experiences erratic changes in her hormones as her ovarian function begins to decline. She can experience several unpleasant symptoms (34 symptoms, to be exact).
Menopause - A woman is menopausal when she has not had a period in 12 months. That is, no bleeding (not even spotting).
Postmenopause - A woman is postmenopausal when she has reached menopause. Postmenopausal women find improvement in most of their menopause symptoms (hot flashes, mood changes, etc.). A postmenopausal woman can experience symptoms associated with low estrogen, including vaginal itching and dryness.
One clinical study found that 75% of pregnancies to women aged 40 years or older were unplanned. This information, in part, means that women are not fully aware of how fertile they really are once they hit age 40.
Can you get pregnant after menopause?
People often refer to menopause as a broad term that covers the entire transition a woman goes through from perimenopause to postmenopause. As you can see, it is incredibly important to know what stage you are in because if you have periods (even if they are irregular), you may still be ovulating.
Women can get pregnant when they are in premenopause and perimenopause. Rarely, women can get pregnant once they are considered menopausal. Likely, if a woman were to get pregnant naturally after she has been deemed menopausal, she may have been mistakenly diagnosed.
Once a woman has reached menopause, her body is no longer capable of ovulating and supporting a pregnancy because her female sex hormones are too low. Similarly, as women age, they have fewer follicles that are available to reach maturity. One of the markers that doctors use to determine menopause is FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone. When FSH is 30mIU/ml or higher, and she has been period-free for 12 months, a woman is considered menopausal.
You can get pregnant after menopause through in vitro fertilization. While your eggs will not be viable once you have reached menopause, you can do IVF using frozen or donor eggs. Your body will also require hormones to prepare and support your body in pregnancy. Postmenopausal women who do IVF and their babies are more likely to encounter higher rates of complications. Nonetheless, IVF in postmenopausal women can be very successful.
So, can a woman get pregnant after menopause? No, postmenopausal women cannot get pregnant without IVF therapy.
Pregnancy During Menopause Statistics
In an early 2019 report from the National Center of Health Statistics, the birth rate increased 2% in women aged 40 years and older from 2017. This is partially due to a cultural shift in which women are starting families later in life. Other important statistics that may shed light on pregnancy in women in midlife include:
Women ages 40-44 were responsible for 11.8 births per 1,000 births.
Women ages 45 and older were responsible for 0.9 births per 1,000 births.
In a 2017 study from the National Center of Health Statistics, there were 840 births to women ages 50 and older. The average age of menopause is 51. Therefore, this statistic may include women who have not yet reached menopause or women who have who may have undergone IVF.
Pregnant or Menopause Quiz
Tender breasts? Absent periods? Hormonal acne? There is a lot of crossover between pregnancy and menopausal symptoms. Therefore, the first few times you miss a period, it may be totally shocking. You may be wondering, “am I pregnant, or is this perimenopause?”
Ask yourself these questions if you are unsure if your symptoms are related to pregnancy or menopause:
Have you missed your period?
If you have missed your period, has it been regular up until this point, or have your periods become irregular?
Are you using some form of birth control?
Are you in your 40’s?
Women who are in their 40’s are likely to notice symptoms of perimenopause. One of the first signs of perimenopause is an irregular period. If you haven’t been using birth control and have not yet reached menopause, you can get pregnant. The best way to answer this question is to take a pregnancy test.
If you are not pregnant but are missing periods, this is an excellent opportunity to meet with your doctor about what to expect during perimenopause and how best to manage your perimenopause symptoms.
You may be wondering, “am I pregnant, or is this perimenopause?”
The Final Word
Women can get pregnant up until they have reached menopause. Therefore, it is essential to find a birth control method that works for you if you are not planning to get pregnant during perimenopause (or at any time).
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.
Meet the Author
Much of her education and clinical experience are related to educating women on women’s health topics ranging from lifestyle improvements, disease management, and general health education.
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