Menopause is a mystery to the majority of women. Why? Well, think back to when you got your first period. Unless you had an extremely enlightened mother, or an outstanding biology class in high school, your best explanation of what was happening to you was “It’s a natural thing, and it will happen once a month.” No explanation of why it would happen, just that it would. And when your mother went through menopause, there was no explanation at all – everybody just ducked for cover. So, it’s not surprising women ask questions such as “Is it possible to get pregnant during menopause?”
The short answer is yes. Never assume you’re too old to get pregnant until your periods have ceased for a complete year. It is indeed possible to conceive during perimenopause. Should you get pregnant? That’s another question entirely.
Biology of Menopause
Menopause literally translates to pause in menstruation – meaning the cessation of a woman’s monthly cycle. This signals the end of a woman’s fertility. Once a woman has reached puberty, her menstrual cycle begins, and each month an egg is released from her ovaries. There is a period of roughly three days every month, when the egg is traveling from the ovary to the uterus via the fallopian tube, where it is possible to be fertilized. Should the egg be fertilized, pregnancy ensues.
If the egg reaches the uterus without fertilization, the egg and the lining of the uterus are sloughed out, and a woman has her monthly period. During menopause, ovulation becomes irregular, as do her periods. While it is possible for an egg to be released and fertilized during this period, known as peri-menopause, the chances decrease as a woman ages, and once over forty, the chances become slight indeed. However – it can happen.
Risks of Pregnancy During Menopause
Unlike a man, who continues to produce fresh sperm his entire adult life, a woman is born with all the eggs she will have. These eggs age right alongside her, and become less viable in the mid-thirties, and continue to decrease in viability until she reaches menopause symptoms itself. The chances of chromosomal abnormalities greatly increase as the eggs age, and a woman in her forties is looking at a high risk for birth defects, primarily Down Syndrome, for her child.
For the mother, as she ages, her chances of hypertension (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes increase once she passes thirty-five. It’s also much more difficult to lose pregnancy weight and get back in shape after pregnancy for older women.
Are There Advantages to Having a Baby After 40?
There are a few, not many; a woman who waits until her forties to conceive is likely a woman who has focused on her career, and having achieved all she wants professionally, now feels ready to have a child. Psychological health is an important factor in becoming a parent, so being ready is a plus. If a woman has stayed active and in shape, she should recover from a pregnancy as well as a younger woman, although not as easily. Being able to chase a toddler around the house is important.
Is it possible to get pregnant during peri-menopause? Yes. Should you try? That depends entirely on you – your emotional well-being, your relationship with the potential father, your fiscal outlook, your preparedness to deal with the conditions of pregnancy, and to deal with a miscarriage or a baby with serious health issues. It is possible for older women to conceive with an in-vitro baby – one conceived with the father’s sperm and a donor egg from a younger female.
If you can afford the procedure, the risks to the baby are reduced, as the egg is from a younger woman. The risks to the baby of the pregnancy still remain – older women have many problems carrying children once they’ve been conceived. And the risks to the mother of the pregnancy also remain, so consider them carefully. You should use a method of birth control during peri-menopause if you’re not willing to deal with these issues, and if you’re not in a committed relationship, you need to protect yourself against sexually-transmitted diseases as well.
So, think it through, Princess. There are many factors to consider, and you are the only one who can decide if you’re willing to take the chance.