An introduction to pregnancy and menopause
The menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her fertility begins to die away. For some women, this is something to look forward to, for others the opposite can be said.
Whatever your attitude towards the menopause might be, your chances of becoming pregnant are the same, and so it is important to be aware that pregnancy is still an option until you have gone for two years without a period.
The risk of pregnancy
The decline of hormones means increasingly irregular ovulation so it is difficult for a woman to know how long she continues to be fertile. Many forget when their last period occurred – six months ago? Perhaps eight? Although it is tempting to consider yourself no longer fertile during the peri-menopause, remember that it is usually after 12 months without a period that women are considered to be infertile.
No matter how irregular your periods may have become, this does not entirely rule out your chances of conceiving – it is possible to have a natural conception until the mid-fifties. This may be both positive and negative.
If you do not want to run the risk of becoming pregnant while going through the peri-menopause, it is recommended that you continue using contraception for two years after your last period.
Generally speaking, however, it is harder for older women to conceive and the risks associated with pregnancy in older women are higher. This is because a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. As these eggs age, they become more likely to have chromosomal abnormalities.
In addition, an older woman’s body is not as adaptable to pregnancy as a younger woman’s, and factors such as high blood pressure all contribute their own risks to the pregnancy.
Becoming pregnant when entering the peri-menopause
Despite the higher risks, many women seek to become pregnant when entering the peri-menopause and are physically able to deliver happy and healthy babies.
Once your periods have become irregular, it can be difficult to predict when an egg is being released – this is the time you are most likely to become pregnant. Measures such as IVF now mean that older women are more likely to be able to become pregnant if this is what they choose.
With the advancement of medical science, it is now even possible for women to become pregnant after the menopause. Although the risks attached to having a baby at this stage are much higher, the uterus is still fully capable of carrying out a pregnancy.
Today, many women are putting off having babies until later in life because of career goals, meaning that older mothers are becoming more commonplace. However, there is still controversy over older women having babies, particularly post-menopausal women, not only because of the associated risks of the pregnancy but also because many feel it is unfair for the child, when the mother may not be able to perform the necessary duties as the child grows up, or leaves home.
Whatever your decision regarding pregnancy, it may be worth speaking to your doctor, as he will be able to give you advice on the prevention of pregnancy during the peri-menopause or provide help on how to conceive in the safest way for you and your child.