Conceiving a Child During Perimenopause
Getting pregnant becomes more difficult as you age. So if you see someone around you have a child at the age of 45 and up, this must mean they have been trying very hard to become mothers. As you near perimenopause, you have less regular ovulations, and that is one of the reasons why conceiving a child is much more difficult around that time. But with enough knowledge and patience, you can still become a mother even at this stage of your life.
Women have a certain amount of eggs, and this amount does not increase during their lives. As a result, by the time of perimenopause, your eggs have aged just like your whole body did, which means a higher chance of giving birth to a child with genetic abnormalities. Apart from that, women who are getting close to menopause sometimes have chronic diseases which would make pregnancy difficult. Such conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.
What Is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the years or months that precede menopause. Before your periods stop entirely for the whole year, which is menopause, your body is in the transitional state. For some women it can last only a few months, while for others it can be much longer, taking more than five years. During this stage, you may have symptoms similar to those women have in menopause. These are vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, and brain fog.
If you have skipped a period, it might mean that you are pregnant, but there is also the chance you are entering perimenopause. Blood tests will be helpful to determine which is your case. Typically women think that until menopause took place, they are still fertile. But it is not an event which happens abruptly, so your fertility might begin to decline before you enter that stage. Do not assume that you are infertile before speaking to your doctor and having them run some tests.
In perimenopause, the function of your ovaries lowers, so there might be months when your body releases an egg, while in other months it will not. Apart from that, your fertility is affected by constant shifts in your hormones which start appearing during perimenopause. But do not let this discourage you, because it seems that until about your mid-fifties, you can still conceive a child by natural means.
Are There Pregnancy Risks in Perimenopause?
Since it is much more challenging to conceive during this stage of life, it is also not easy to give birth to a healthy child. Older mothers have hormonal shifts and lower egg quality, which increases the chances of miscarriage. Apart from that, you are also at risk of having a child with birth defects. These might include Down syndrome, which appears because of an error in genetic code. Overall, studies show that pregnancy is considered as high risk in perimenopause (1).
If you have symptoms of other health problems like high blood pressure, seizures, heart disease, or diabetes, pregnancy might be complicated by those and vice versa. Your baby is also at risk for premature birth, which happens more often in older mothers. Being aware of these risks is an important step in deciding to conceive a child in perimenopause. If you still want to have a baby, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Help for Women Who Want to Conceive
At a certain point, your doctor might conclude that natural conception is not possible for you. This might be devastating for a woman to hear. But if that happens, you should always remember that you have many options to get help. There are fertility treatments for women in their 30s, who still have eggs of good quality, as well as for those in their 40s, whose eggs are compromised in quality.
It is a common perception that fertility ends at around 41 years of age (2). But the actual menopause happens much later than that for most women. As a result, a woman still can conceive but should weigh the risks first. There are oral meds and hormone injections that could help with fertility issues at an older age. And also it seems that the donation of the oocyte is a reliable treatment option.
For women before the menopausal age, various infections can also be the reasons for fertility problems (3). Harmful bacteria could replace the good microflora of your gut, which disturbs gut health and could harm your overall health. In healthy women, Lactobacillus species maintain the pH of the vagina and prevent bad bacteria from colonizing it. Because of that, it was found that supplementing with this type of bacteria through food or with a probiotic pill could help improve fertility.
There are other ways in which probiotics help fertility. They could also reduce inflammation, bring back the balance to your gut bacteria, and help you manage weight. As well as treat bacterial vaginosis (BV) and other infections and help in assisted reproduction. All in all, do not be discouraged and know your options and solutions for conceiving a child in perimenopause.
(1) DH Kushner. “Fertility in women after age forty-five.”
(2) BC Tarlatzis and L. Zepiridis. “Perimenopausal conception.”
(3) Praveen Bhandari and Vijay Prabha. “Evaluation of profertility effect of probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum 2621 in a murine model.”