• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Can you get pregnant after menopause?

pregnant-woman

As you enter the menopausal stage of your life, you might be wondering if you can still get pregnant. At this transitional time of life, even if you’re having hot flashes and irregular periods, you can still get pregnant even though you’re a lot less fertile than you ever were.

You are not officially at menopause until you have gone a whole year without a period. Menopause means your hormone levels have changed enough such that your ovaries cannot release any more eggs. You can no longer get pregnant naturally.

The word “menopause” is often used to describe the time of life following your first symptoms, but there’s more to it than that. Menopause doesn’t happen overnight.

Learn more: What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

During your reproductive years, you produce estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). In the middle of your monthly cycle, LH, FSH, and estrogen work together, prompting your ovaries to release a mature egg during ovulation.

Ovulation can’t occur unless your hormone levels are within the optimal range. If the egg is fertilized, LH stimulates progesterone production to maintain the pregnancy.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause is a time of transition — the “change of life.” Your ovaries are starting to produce less estrogen and progesterone. LH and FSH levels are starting to rise as your ovaries are becoming less responsive to them.

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.

Although your fertility is declining, you can still conceive. This phase can last for several years.

During perimenopause, your periods may seem to have stopped, but they start up again and that can happen many times, which can trick you into thinking you’ve reached menopause even though you haven’t.

If it has been an entire year since your last period, you’ve reached menopause. Once you’ve reached menopause, you can no longer ovulate and you cannot conceive.

Once you’re postmenopausal, your hormone levels will never again be in the suitable range for ovulation and pregnancy.

IVF after menopause can be successful in many ways. You can use the eggs you had frozen earlier in life, or you can use fresh or frozen donor eggs.

You will also need hormone therapy to prepare your body for implantation and to carry a baby to term. If you are postmenopausal, you are more likely to experience complications of pregnancy after IVF.

Depending on your overall state of health, IVF after menopause is worth considering as menopause cannot be reversed

After menopause, you can no longer produce eggs and thus cannot become pregnant naturally. But although eggs succumb to this biological clock, pregnancy is still possible using a donor egg. Therefore despite hitting the end of your reproductive age, you can still be a mother if you successfully have an egg from a younger woman implanted into your uterus.

There are essentially two biological clocks: one for your ovaries which seems to run out, and one for the rest of your reproductive system, which seems to go on. All that’s needed is a little encouragement with the sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone, followed by a donated, fertilized egg.

At such an advanced age, there is a higher chance of complications but the side effects can be tolerable enough that even well into your late 50s you shouldn’t completely discount the possibility of pregnancy.

If you want to be a mother at age 50, it is possible. This is the bottom line.

Your pregnancy as a post-menopausal woman with an IVF procedure through egg donation is one of the possibilities of modern technology.

Although outcomes have been extremely favourable, there are medical conditions that can complicate pregnancy and it has become imperative to understand the physiological changes and be prepared and watchful of possible complications.

While there are women in their early 40s who are successful in becoming pregnant with their own eggs spontaneously, many others more are able to conceive with donated eggs.

And while the likelihood of becoming pregnant is significantly higher when enrolled in an egg donor programme, pregnancy and birth outcomes are extremely similar to conceiving with your own eggs or with an egg donor.

What this translates into is that whether or not the pregnancy is a result of a natural conception, a conception with your own eggs and assistance from advanced reproductive techniques like IVF or with the assistance of egg donation, you are likely to have similar risks and outcomes throughout the duration of the pregnancy. The most notable risk factor is not how the pregnancy was conceived but perhaps the age in which a woman achieves a pregnancy.

If you are in your 40sband 50s, you should expect to have some mild increase in pregnancy related issues.

However, careful preparation with monitoring you should anticipate a successful result. Seek advice of a reproductive endocrinologist.

As an older patient, you are more likely to deliver by Caesarean Section and to experience other pregnancy related challenges compared to younger women. However, when you are appropriately screened, as a healthy woman in your 50s, and carrying a singleton pregnancy, your pregnancy can go practically full term and you can deliver healthy babies.

Having a baby in your 50s may be seen as rather extreme but It isn’t as strange as it sounds. On the contrary, it is becoming more common.

While having a baby after age 35 is more common today than ever, a lot of women are successfully having babies in their 40s and 50s, too.

We can make a difference in terms of natural conception. But thanks to reproductive technologies, one-upping nature and waiting until the timing is right — even if that’s when you’re in your 40s or even after you’ve hit the big 5-0 — may be a real option.

If you are considering a baby at 50, or if you’re in your 50s and expecting, you probably have a lot of questions. While your doctor should be your go-to person for answers, here’s some must-have information to get you started.

What are the benefits to having a baby later in life?

While people have traditionally had children in their 20s and 30s, many feel that there are some advantages to waiting — or adding another child to the family years after you’ve had your first.

You may wish to travel, establish or advance your career, or become more comfortable with your own identity before initially starting a family. These are all popular reasons for putting off first-time parenthood.

Or, you may find a partner later in life and decide you want children together. Or — and this is completely legit! — you may not want kids when you’re younger, and then change your mind.

When you’re in your 40s and 50s, you’re perhaps more likely to have the financial stability and flexibility that can make it easier to care for children. You’ll also have more life experiences. (Just don’t think this means you’ll have all of the answers when it comes to parenting — we’re yet to meet someone who does!)

Having children with a large gap in their ages also has benefits that appeal to many families. A mix of older and younger children allows for the older ones to take a more active role in caring for a new little one.

And if you already have children when you get pregnant in your 40s or even 50s, you’ll love the joys of parenthood all over again — and likely with less stress than the first time around!

But there are some things to consider

While having a baby later in life can be easier in some respects, it may also be more difficult to conceive. Your pregnancy will also automatically be considered high risk.

Some of the risks of having babies in your 50s include:

Preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy that can become life-threatening)

Gestational diabetes

Ectopic pregnancy (when the egg is attached outside of your uterus)

Higher risk of needing a cesarean delivery

Miscarriage

Stillbirth

There are also lifestyle changes to consider. While some women welcome their 50s as an opportunity to explore “me time,” having a baby could disrupt this. You might find other common milestones less traditional too, such as an upcoming retirement or traveling.

Additionally, there are risk factors that pertain to your baby. The later in life you have a baby, the higher the risk of:

Learning disabilities

Birth defects

Chromosome-related differences, such as Down syndrome

Low birth weight

It’s wise to undergo preconception counseling to discuss your reproductive goals with your doctor. They can go into more detail about risks and considerations.

To be continued next week

 

Abayomi Ajayi

MD/CEO Nordica Fertility

[email protected],