Can You Get Pregnant After Menopause?

You may have heard the term "menopause baby" either on social media or in the movies. Is it possible to get pregnant naturally after menopause? The changes to a woman's body due to menopause suggest the answer is no. But that does not mean having a baby during or after menopause is impossible.

Key takeaways:
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    Statistics suggest the natural pregnancy rate for perimenopausal women ages 40-44 is between 10 and 20%.
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    The failure rate of IVF is between 15% and 25% but increases with maternal age.
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    There are few reports of postmenopausal women conceiving naturally, but this is very rare.
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    By the time a woman reaches the age of 41, up to 50% are unable to conceive naturally. That number increases to 90% at age 45 and approximately 100% at 50.

What is menopause?

Menopause begins 12 months after a woman's last period. In the years leading up to the onset of menopause, several changes occur, including declining hormone production and ovulation. Menopause is often divided into three stages. During each stage, the ability to conceive naturally changes.

At birth, a woman has approximately 1 million eggs. By the time she reaches puberty and begins to ovulate monthly, that number will be around 300,000, and it will continue to decline throughout her lifetime. Due to the decline in the number of healthy eggs in the ovaries and changes in hormones related to ovulation and pregnancy, a woman’s chances of getting pregnant change dramatically with each stage of menopause.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause, the years "around" menopause, typically starts in women between ages 40 and 44. The length and flow of her menstrual cycle will change during this time. Also, the production of estrogen and progesterone will start to decline as she gets closer to menopause. Although fertility starts to decline during perimenopause, it is still possible to conceive naturally. Statistics suggest the natural pregnancy rate for perimenopausal women ages 40-44 is between 10 and 20%. These numbers drop to 12% between ages 45 and 49.

Menopause

As noted above, menopause is said to begin once a woman has gone twelve full months without her period. You are no longer ovulating at this time because the hormones necessary to trigger the ovaries to release an egg are insufficient. During menopause, without supplemental hormones or IVF, pregnancy is unlikely.

Postmenopause

After menopause, the monthly cycle required for pregnancy does not return. Also, hormone levels do not increase to premenopausal levels. As with menopause, a natural pregnancy after menopause is unlikely. However, HRT and IVF offer an opportunity to conceive after menopause.

How to increase chances of getting pregnant

The natural cycles that allow women to conceive naturally change as they approach menopause. Once a woman enters menopause, and in the years after, the body does not produce the necessary hormones or release eggs, both of which are required to get pregnant. However, these changes to your body's cycle do not mean having a baby during or after menopause is impossible.

In vitro fertilization (IVF)

Once a woman goes through menopause, her eggs are no longer viable. However, IVF can still provide an option for pregnancy. IVF is a medical procedure that uses mature eggs that are fertilized in a lab. Soon after (approximately two to five days after fertilization), the embryo is transferred to the uterus. If IVF is successful, the embryo will implant in the uterine lining, as would happen with a natural pregnancy, within six to ten days of fertilization. The failure rate of IVF is between 15% and 25% but increases with maternal age.

IVF generally uses eggs that are retrieved from the ovaries. However, as a woman enters and progresses through menopause, the health and quantity of her eggs decline. At birth, a woman has all of the eggs she will ever have. The combination of (potentially) unhealthy eggs and too few eggs makes retrieval during menopause or postmenopause unlikely. So, how can you get pregnant with IVF after menopause? The answer is using donor eggs or previously frozen eggs.

Previously frozen eggs

There are many circumstances where a woman may choose to freeze her eggs. For example, medical concerns, known fertility issues during pre-menopause, population disorders, sterilization or tubal ligation at a young age, genetic disorders, etc. In these instances, previously frozen eggs collected before menopause are used as part of the IVF procedure.

Donor eggs

For a woman who did not previously freeze eggs, donor eggs are also a possibility. A donor egg is a healthy egg collected from a donor. Depending on the arrangements with the donor, someone looking to use donor eggs may or may not know the donating individual.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is a specific treatment used to help minimize menopause symptoms. HRT is designed to replace specific hormones in the body being produced at a lower level as you approach and progress through menopause. Your doctor will also prescribe HRT during an IVF cycle to help thicken the uterine lining and increase the chances of an effective transfer. As to the question, can you get pregnant after menopause on HRT?

Generally speaking, postmenopausal pregnancy is unlikely, although not entirely impossible. HRT will not trigger the ovaries to produce new eggs. If a woman has remaining eggs after menopause, HRT might trigger the release of an egg. There are few reports of postmenopausal women conceiving naturally, but this is very rare.

Lifestyle and diet

If you are considering IVF, your provider will also recommend diet and lifestyle changes to ensure the best possible outcomes. Examples include:

  • Weight management
  • Practicing stress reduction
  • Quitting smoking
  • Taking supplements (if recommended)

How long after menopause can you get pregnant?

IVF success rates often decline with age and other factors related to menopause. In other words, a woman is more likely to get pregnant closer to menopause. The Society for Reproductive Technology indicates that IVF success rates for women over 40 are around 7%. Some providers suggest women over the age of 43 should use doner or previously frozen eggs.

Can you get pregnant after menopause naturally?

Statistics indicate women are most able to conceive naturally during premenopause and, to some degree, perimenopause. By the time a woman reaches the age of 41, up to 50% are unable to conceive naturally. That number increases to 90% at age 45 and approximately 100% at 50.

The rising infertility rates can be linked to poor egg quality, reduced hormone production, and the onset of menopause. Can a woman get pregnant after menopause naturally? After menopause, hormone levels are no longer able to trigger ovulation, and therefore, natural conception is all but impossible.

The risks of getting pregnant later in life

After the age of 35, there are certain risks a woman should consider. However, it is essential to mention that these risks may only affect some who choose to have a child in their 30s or 40s. Common examples may include:

  • Reduced fertility
  • Genetic risks such as Down syndrome
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Increased risk of gestational diabetes
  • Breech positioning
  • Emergency c-section
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birthweight or high birthweight
  • Increased risk of maternal mortality

Going through menopause does not suggest the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Contact your reproductive health specialist to learn more about how to get pregnant after menopause.

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