Menopause occurs in women when they are 45-55 years old, with 51 years being the average age in the United States.
Before menopause comes perimenopause, i.e., the time around menopause. Most women experience the same when they are 40-44 years old. The perimenopause phase is marked by irregular menstrual cycle and flow. When you haven’t had periods for 12 consecutive months, that means menopause has set in.
With menopause, your reproductive years come to an end. This is because estrogen levels fall drastically. Your ovaries also do not release eggs anymore. So, the question of getting pregnant during menopause naturally doesn’t arise at all. But is there any other way to get pregnant after your periods have stopped completely due to menopause? Let’s read on to know more about the same.
What are Perimenopause and Menopause? Understanding the Terms
Menopause doesn’t occur all of a sudden. It is a slow and gradual process. It begins with perimenopause which is also called menopause transition or around menopause. As mentioned, perimenopause mostly starts at 40–44 years of age. However, some women can experience it as early as their 30s. Some may go through perimenopause when they are in their mid-50s.
The estrogen levels, the major reproductive hormones, begin fluctuating during the perimenopause phase. There is a fluctuation in the length of the menstrual cycle, alongside the blood flow as well. The ovaries release a lesser number of eggs than before. If your menses are delayed by not more than seven days, then you are in early perimenopause. If the gap between your cycles is 60 days or even more than that, then you are in late perimenopause.
The average span for perimenopause is 4-8 years, after which menopause sets in. In the final years of perimenopause, that is, the last one or two years, the estrogen levels drop drastically.
When you haven’t had your periods for twelve months in succession, that means the perimenopause stage has ended. Menopause has begun. The ovaries produce minimal estrogens and do not release eggs anymore. This also means you aren’t fertile anymore. The time that starts after menopause, when there aren’t any periods for a year, is postmenopause.
Is it Possible to Get Pregnant Around Menopause (Perimenopause)?
Before talking about pregnancy in menopause, let us analyze if a woman can get pregnant in menopause or not. In most women, the estrogen levels will reduce as they step into their 40s.
They will still ovulate, and the menstrual cycle will continue but become irregular. In some women, periods may stop for many months and start again. So, under such circumstances, getting pregnant isn’t impossible. But the chances are pretty low. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine that a woman’s fertility declines around 5 to 10 years before the onset of menopause. So conceiving naturally after the age of 40 is not impossible but quite challenging.
Here is a statistical representation that shows how a woman’s ability to conceive naturally decreases with age.
|Age of women||Decrease in their ability to conceive naturally (in %)|
|25 years||By 4.5%|
|38 years||By 20%|
|41 years||By 50%|
|45 years||By 90%|
|50 years||By almost 100%|
Can You Get Pregnant After Menopause (Postmenopause)?
No, there isn’t any possibility of getting pregnant after menopause naturally. But that doesn’t mean all doors are closed.
You have the option of getting pregnant through IVF (In vitro fertilization). Well, we all know what IVF is. Yet let’s briefly understand the process. In vitro stands for outside your body. So, fertilization doesn’t occur in your body but in the laboratory, where the sperm and eggs are combined and then put into a woman’s uterus upon fertilization.
Now if you have experienced menopause and are in the postmenopause stage, then your ovaries won’t release eggs anymore. So you will not be able to get pregnant with your eggs unless you have frozen them before (in your fertile years). Instead, you will have to rely on the eggs (fresh or frozen) of a donor.
A study was conducted on 54 participants who either went through menopause or had premature ovarian failure. It showed that they had a successful pregnancy with donor eggs. But, at the same time, the study also mentions that there could be a risk as well in the pregnancy of postmenopausal women, which needs to be analyzed.
The eggs of the donor may be merged with the sperm of your partner. If that isn’t possible, then a donor’s sperm can be used for the purpose. Moreover, the woman would also have to undergo hormone therapies to carry the baby full-term.
What Complications May Women Face While Getting Pregnant After Menopause (Post Menopause)?
When conceiving through IVF, postmenopausal women are at an increased risk of complications, be it major or minor, than premenopausal women. The success rates of IVF decline with age. As per the data by SART (Society for Assistive Reproductive Technology), the success rates of IVF for women who are 40 and above are stated as follows:
|Age of women (in years)||IVF Success rate (in %)|
|45 and above||3%|
So, from the above-mentioned data, it can be seen that the effectiveness of IVF lessens as a woman progresses in age. However, the extent to which IIVF may work on women depends on their overall health and physical fitness.
Since the estrogen levels are reduced to a minimum during the postmenopause stage, women are susceptible to several health complications then. They are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. They’ll even have bladder issues and may experience weight gain.
So there’s always a risk associated with getting pregnant in later life, i.e., after 35 years of age. And, if you have passed the menopause stage, the risk could get higher for the mother and the child. Let us take a look at a few of them:
- Higher chances of miscarriage, preterm birth, or stillbirth
- Low or high birth weight of the newborn
- Increased susceptibility to gestational diabetes
- Possibilities of an emergency C-section
- Risks of heart problems (of the mother)
- Higher chances of preeclampsia (spike in blood pressure in pregnancy)
- Greater risk of placenta previa (a condition where the placenta covers the uterus’ opening partially or wholly)
- Babies could be at a higher risk of chromosomal disabilities and might have Down syndrome.
To elaborate on this further, let’s check a few facts here:
- A study conducted on 634 272 women between 1978 and 1992 showed that those between 20 and 24 years of age were at risk of miscarriage or spontaneous abortion by 8.9%. While for those over 45 years, the risk percentage elevated to 74.7%.
- The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a review that showed that older women were at a greater risk of stillbirth by 1.20-2.23 times. Another study showed that the percentage of stillbirth for females in the age group of 18-34 years was 4.7% per 1000 women. In women aged 35-40 years, it was 6.1% per 1000 women. Whereas for those who were 40 and above, the percentage was higher – 8.1% per 1000 women.
- Data by the March of Dimes reveal that the more the age of pregnant women, the greater the chances of delivering babies with Down Syndrome. In those aged 25 years, the chances are 1 in 1340 women. For those in their 30s, the possibility is 1 in 940. In a 40-year-old woman, the risk factor rate is 1 in 85, while in 45 years, it is the highest, 1 in 35.
Woman Giving Birth At 60 – The News
Well, true that 60 is too late to bear kids. Yet, everything depends on a woman’s overall health and well-being. An interesting news that came up in 2019 was about a 61-year-old lady Cecile Eledge, who became a gestational surrogate and gave birth to her granddaughter.
She did the same for Matthew Eledge, her son, and Elliot Dougherty, his husband. The conception occurred by merging Dougherty’s sister’s eggs and Cecile’s son’s sperm. The baby weighed 6 pounds at birth, and there weren’t any complications.
Gestational surrogacy refers to the procedure where the woman carrying the fetus isn’t the provider of the egg. In fact, the eggs will either come from the parents-to-be or from any third-party donor. Also, she will not be the parent of the baby she is carrying. She’s doing the same for another couple or person.
The medical fraternity had several opinions regarding Cecile Eledge’s incident. Gestational careers need to be fit both physically and mentally. Also, they shouldn’t have gone through any complicated deliveries and pregnancies before. A medical expert opined that pregnancy involves risks, which are greater in a woman who is 61 years of age.
Another piece of news is about Claudette Cook, aged 60 in 2016, who gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. She was a new mom, and the pregnancy happened through IVF.
No, it is not possible to reverse menopause. It is a natural process. Once your ovaries have stopped producing eggs post-menopause, they can’t do the same all over again. However, with science doing wonders each day, nothing seems impossible.
A group of researchers claims to have found a way to reverse menopause. It’s through a kind of blood treatment that may help postmenopausal women release eggs again through their ovaries. More research is needed to validate this point.
One of the main risks of IVF is the chance of twin or multiple pregnancies. Women who are 40 years of age or more than that have a higher chance of giving birth to twins by 4.1%.
If you’ve delayed your pregnancy because you started late or due to any other reasons, and plan to conceive by the time you are near menopause or already in menopause, then it’s not an easy task. But it isn’t impossible as well. There are hormone therapies and IVF to help you out. Yet, before making a decision, you’ve got to know about the risks associated with the same.