Everyone has heard anecdotal tales of women who became pregnant and gave birth to healthy children in their 40s, 50s, or even later. But is it possible to become pregnant after menopause, the stage of life when menstrual periods end permanently? ¹
Although it is uncommon, pregnancy after menopause may be feasible under some situations. In fact, a case report from 2020 revealed that an Iranian woman, then 54, delivered birth after passing through menopause at the age of 47.2. Recent advances in fertility medicine have also made it possible for some women to become pregnant without menstruating. ³
Here’s everything you need to know about the likelihood and potential risks of becoming pregnant after menopause, whether you’re inquisitive about the possibility of pregnancy at 37 or 55.
Menopause: What Is It?
A typical aspect of healthy aging is menopause. Menopause is the period of time after a woman has gone 12 months without having her period, and is sometimes referred to as the “change of life.” ⁴ Menopause typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, though it can occasionally occur earlier or later. ¹
The menopausal transition, also known as perimenopause, frequently begins in a person’s 30s or 40s and lasts for five years or longer.
¹,⁵ Many perimenopausal women first experience changes to their menstrual cycle, such as lighter bleeding or erratic cycles. Their ovaries eventually cease releasing eggs each month, and they start missing their period more frequently (ovulation). ¹
The body’s estrogen and progesterone levels start to change drastically during perimenopause.
⁴ Numerous symptoms, such as the following, can result from these hormonal changes: ¹
- uncontrollable vaginal bleeding
- a hot flash
- excessive perspiration, particularly during night
- quick heartbeat
- Vaginal dryness and a decreased libido are examples of sexual adverse effects.
- urine leaks brought on by pelvic floor alterations
- Anxiety, despair, and mood swings
- aching joints
- mental haze
- difficulties with memory
- infections of the urinary tract (UTIs)
Pregnancy Age-related decreases in fertility occur during perimenopause. Your ovarian reserve, or the quantity and caliber of your remaining eggs, starts to decline when you reach your mid-30s. In a given cycle, about 25% of couples in their 20s and 30s will become pregnant. By the time they are 40, barely 10% of women will become pregnant in a given month. ⁶
Your ovarian reserve has most certainly greatly decreased by the time you experience the first signs of perimenopause, such as a missing period. It may also be more difficult to get pregnant during perimenopause due to changes in estrogen levels, irregular periods, and lower sex drive. ⁷ The likelihood of becoming pregnant typically begins to fall for women at the age of 30, then takes another dip in their late 30s, and finally experiences a major, quick decline in their late 40s. ⁶
However, until a year has passed after your last period, you should utilize contraception if you are going through menopause and do not intend to become pregnant. Although it’s unlikely, it’s not impossible to become pregnant unintentionally while going through perimenopause. ⁴
However, if you want to try for a baby and are detecting menopause symptoms, talk to your healthcare professional about fertility testing. They can measure your levels of fertility-related hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) to give you a better idea of your chances of becoming pregnant in the near future. ⁷
Postmenopause: What Is It?
Postmenopause is the period of time after a woman’s menstrual cycle has ended permanently.
⁸ Although it varies greatly, the average age at which a woman experiences menopause and the postmenopausal phase is 51.5 years old.
After menopause, many people experience changes in their weight, body composition (such as how their body’s fat is distributed), energy levels, mood, and general health and well-being.
⁴ Additionally, there are a number of potential long-term side effects of postmenopause, such as:
- unexpected vaginal bleeding
- loss of bone
- Osteoporosis (a condition involving weak, brittle bones)
- elevated blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- heart disease risk is now more likely
- risk of stroke rising
Lower estrogen levels are associated with a number of postmenopausal health issues, but the aging process is also a factor in others. Frequently, lifestyle modifications, hormone therapy, dietary supplements, and/or medication can be used to treat these symptoms. ⁸
After or During Menopause Pregnancy
Typically, after going through menopause, women do not spontaneously become pregnant.
However, with fertility techniques such in vitro fertilization, it might be feasible to conceive while in the postmenopausal stage (IVF). In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that involves mating sperm and eggs in a lab. Your uterus receives the embryo following fertilization. ⁹
Even with help, you won’t be able to ovulate after menopause (release an egg from your ovary). IVF is frequently used by post-menopausal women who desire to conceive to use donor eggs. You can use donated sperm or sperm from your partner to fertilize donor eggs. Even if you’ve experienced menopause, you can still use any frozen eggs or embryos for in vitro fertilization (IVF). ³
Risks Associated with Post-Menopausal Pregnancy
The main risk of IVF at any age is an elevated possibility of multiple pregnancies. Only one embryo can be transferred at a time by your fertility doctor in order to reduce the possibility of producing twins or triplets. ⁹
Those who become pregnant beyond age 35 are also more likely to experience:
- birth prematurely
- Cesarean delivery (C-section)
Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
having a child that is chromosomally defective and has a condition like Down syndrome
By using younger donor eggs in IVF, several of these hazards, including the possibility of congenital birth abnormalities, may be reduced.
³ Others, such as preeclampsia, can be avoided or treated by adopting a healthy lifestyle and receiving regular prenatal care. ⁶
Women’s fertility starts to wane in their 30s, and by age 40, it has drastically decreased. Your probability of becoming pregnant naturally while going through perimenopause (the transition to menopause) is slim, but not impossible. Between the ages of 45 and 55, menopause, or the cessation of menstrual periods, is commonly indicated by 12 months without a period.
Speak with your healthcare practitioner about the option of IVF if you’ve already experienced menopause but still desire to become pregnant. Regardless of your age, speak with your doctor right away if you suspect that you could be pregnant.