The reproductive capacity of a woman depends upon her age. Under normal circumstances, she can conceive till she has a regular menstrual cycle. Her reproductive life span extends between her first menstrual period and the last one. Menopause is the term used to define the end of the reproductive cycle. It is characterized by the cessation of the monthly menstrual period. The production of female hormones progesterone and estrogen starts slowing down. The ovaries shut down and no longer produce eggs, which mean that there are no chances of pregnancy.
But does menopause guarantee the end of reproductive functioning? Can a menopausal woman never get pregnant? Should she stop using contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancy at this stage? There are a number of questions that need to be answered for menopausal woman so that they can know all about getting pregnant (or avoiding it).
Pregnancy during Menopause
Before answering all the questions about menopausal pregnancy, it is important to understand menopause first. Menopause does not happen in one day. A woman’s body starts giving signals as she approaches the end of her reproductive lifespan. Her periods become irregular as the ovaries slow down. This also indicates irregularity of ovulation. The process may take years to complete. Menopause is officially declared only after the doctor confirms that the woman is no longer ovulating.
Peri menopause is the term used to describe this time period, when the woman is undergoing menopause but is still not done with it. This is the time when she does ovulate, but the ovulation is erratic. Pregnancy is practically possible during peri menopause, even though the chances are bleak. It can happen if a sperm gets to meet a mature egg at the exact time of ovulation. Therefore, a woman should continue to use precaution if she does not want a baby at this age. On the other hand, there could be hope for those who still want to conceive despite the advanced age.
At the same time, it is important to remember that pregnancy at this age is susceptible to be complicated. The risks of miscarriage and premature birth are high, and so are the chances of medical complications such as gestational hypertension and diabetes. There may be issues with the baby too, from low birth weight to chromosomal defects caused due to aged eggs. A woman who wants to have a baby at this age should consult an infertility specialist for medical treatment and guidance.
Peri Menopausal Pregnancy: What are the options?
During peri menopause, ovulation takes place every now and then. It is essential to identify the exact timing of ovulation so that pregnancy can be attempted for maximum success rate. The timing has to be perfect for pregnancy to take place naturally. On the other hand, the woman can seek medical assistance for conception. The best option is In Vitro Fertilization, which is a widely used assisted reproductive technique. It involves stimulating the woman’s ovaries to produce multiple eggs. These eggs are then retrieved and fertilized with male sperms in a lab dish. The ready embryo is them transferred in the woman’s uterus for pregnancy to take place.
Pre-implantation genetic testing can be used as a part of IVF cycle. As the name suggests, the technique is used to identify the chromosomally healthier embryos for implantation to yield a healthy pregnancy. There is also the option of using donor egg IVF if the quality of eggs produced by the woman is not good enough. The eggs of a younger donor can be used for yielding a healthy offspring. Similarly, the option of surrogacy may be considered for such women who are not in the position to carry the pregnancy for nine months.
Pregnancy after the completion of menopause is practically impossible. After all, it is not possible to conceive when there are no more eggs in the ovaries. Medical science is working on reversal of menopause but the research is still in its evolutionary stages. Therefore, adoption is the best solution for women, who desperately want a child after menopause.
Preventing Unwanted Pregnancy during Menopause
While getting pregnant may be a concern for some women going through menopause, others may be concerned about preventing unwanted pregnancy. Since the menstrual periods are erratic, there are chances of pregnancy going undetected. The woman may confuse it with missed periods and let it continue. Further, she may find herself in a fix as the pregnancy gets advanced. Again, it is a specialist who can clear all doubts by confirming that a woman is not ovulating any more. Till they get this confirmation, women should continue with regular contraceptive method to be safe. She may continue using these even after menopause, not for birth control but for protection against sexually transmitted infections.
Advanced techniques such as donor eggs and IVF have changed the course of nature, with menopausal women being able to conceive. But those who do get pregnant at an advanced age, naturally or via assisted techniques, need to be extra careful. They require constant medical supervision as complication risk is high. Having an expert gynecologist to guide her helps make the ride a smooth one.
Gaudium IVF is the top infertility centre in India where patients are offered extensive reproductive techniques as well as gynecological solutions for diverse infertility and reproductive issues. Visit here for free second opinion from Dr Manika Khanna, the leading infertility specialist in Delhi.