Pregnancy in Menopause
You're going merrily along your way, confident and happy in the fact that you won't be keeping the sanitary napkin manufacturers in business any longer, reveling in the new-found freedom of unprotected sex and then ... you discover you're expecting. What?
Or, you've hit menopause and the thought of never having another baby suddenly comes crushing down on you. Somehow a part of your life is being taken away and there is more than sadness that accompanies the transition. If only you could have one more baby ... is it too late?
Menopause May Not be the End of Pregnancy Possibilities
Either way, thinking that menopause is the end of baby-making may be erroneous. Unless or until you are completely through menopause, there is still a chance for conception. There is more than one factor at play when it comes to pregnancy during menopause, and even though you have gone through 12 consecutive months without a period, sometimes the hormones that were supposed to have stopped being produced continue on. The lack of menses indicates that estrogen and progesterone production have ceased and that the ovaries are no longer producing eggs. However, sometimes a woman can produce enough estrogen to have an egg implant in the uterus during the time when she believes everything has stopped.
Why, if menopause is supposed to be the end of the reproductive cycle of life, does such a thing happen? We tend to think that menopause is a one-time, single action event, when in fact it can take several years for the process to be completed. Fluctuating hormones can be a side-effect for five years or more after becoming menopausal. At any time during this five year span when hormones are unpredictable, you can become pregnant during menopause. It might be a good idea to consider birth control if you don't want to conceive a pregnancy and there is no other reason you can't become pregnant (like a hysterectomy).
Post-menopausal Pregnancy is Impossible without ART
Post-menopausal women cannot become pregnant. Period, full stop. They no longer produce the hormones required for menstruation and without any estrogen or progesterone in the body; conception is simply not going to happen. So, if you are post-menopausal, unless you opt for ART, there is no chance you'll wake up pregnant one morning. On the other hand, if you are a younger woman who has gone through an early menopause (before 45), and you still want to have a family, it is possible with ART and donor eggs. However, there are risks that are attendant with a pregnancy when you're older that you might want to consider before heading off to the reproduction clinic.
Risks of Pregnancy in Menopause
Women who conceive during menopause face myriad challenges and their babies are confronted with potential difficulties as well. Pregnancy during menopause can set the stage for a number of issues:
· gastrointestinal diabetes
· hypertension disorders
Becoming pregnant after the age of 40 increases the risk for any of these issues to arise, and the risk increases with each additional year after 40.
C-Sections More Prevalent in Pregnancy in Menopause
On top of the risks listed above, the c-section rate for women over 40 is significantly higher than that of younger moms. Almost 50% of women having their first baby between the ages of 40 to 45 have a c-section. Older women, menopausal women, have older uteruses that tend not to stretch or contract well, which can result in an abnormal, difficult labor.
Additional problems may arise for the menopausal woman who is pregnant when it comes to placental problems. Placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta does not move up and away from the cervix during pregnancy, can cause severe vaginal bleeding and start labor prematurely. Again, an older uterus doesn't deal well with the changes that are part of pregnancy.
Risks to Baby Increase in Pregnancy in Menopause
Then there's the risk to the baby that comes with pregnancy in later years. Menopausal women who are pregnant tend to have babies born early and also run the risk of birth defects in their babies. Cardiac issues in newborns tend to increase as the mom is older and aging eggs are definitely implicated in various chromosomal issues like Down syndrome. However, with proper prenatal care, testing, observation and self-care, it is possible for a woman in menopause to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery a healthy baby.
Weighing the risk factors of pregnancy during menopause or pregnancy over the age of 40 is an important exercise. Lifestyle changes may be necessary to ensure your safety and the safety of your baby.