Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
For some women, menopause brings an end to the worries of becoming pregnant. But unless menopause has been brought on by a hysterectomy, pregnancy is still a very real possibility during the menopausal phase. Thinking that natural menopause means no more risk of pregnancy is a common myth.
Why menopause and birth control myths persist.
Myths surrounding menopause continue to exist because not everyone feels comfortable discussing ‘the change’ with their doctor. Depending on a woman’s particular feelings, menopause may bring on a sense of loss or relief; some women are distressed as their reproductive years come to an end while others are happy to no longer have to rely on birth control.
Myth: I cannot get pregnant during menopause
A woman’s ability to conceive does diminish with age. Women in their forties find their chances of becoming pregnant can decline as much as up to 50%. But pregnancies do occur as the following statistics show:
*More than 50% of women between the ages of 45-49 do not use any form of contraception, believing that they cannot get pregnant
*About 10% of women between the ages of 45-49 rely on ‘natural’ forms of birth control including rhythm and withdraw.
*Over 60% of pregnancies for women over age 40, many of them unintended, result in abortions – this point is not to judge any woman’s situation but has been included to show that the risks of pregnancy still affect menopausal women.
Myth: My periods are very irregular so I cannot get pregnant
The only time a woman is truly unable to have children is once the menopause phase has completed and a full twelve months have passed without a period. Until that time, even if periods only happen a couple of times a year, every period means that there is ovulation and maybe a pregnancy.
Myth: If I do get pregnant it will be easy – just look at all those celebrities!
The later a woman does become pregnant, the greater the chances for an underweight baby. Or a baby could develop many other health problems because of the additional strain on a woman’s body during a later pregnancy. For all the glowing birth stories in celebs over 40, the real stories of frustration, disappointment, miscarriages, and numerous attempts are usually not well publicized. At the same time, celebs have the very best of medical care, not to mention a ton of styling experts, to help these women look healthy during what are usually very difficult pregnancies.
One other thing to keep in mind is dealing with the unexpected. Some women may want to have a last go at motherhood, but many women are not ready to raise more children after the others have grown up. Plus there is the impact an unexpected pregnancy can have on a relationship, especially if neither partner has the desire to extend parenthood.
Myth: I cannot take the Pill over 40
Women over 35 who do not smoke or have high blood pressure can talk to their doctors about using low dose birth control pills. These lower dose pills still provide protection against pregnancy and may help to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes or irritability. Possible side effects can include higher risks of blood clots and some types of cancers. Generally, these increased risks take into account a woman’s overall physical health; the risks are not necessarily due to the Pill itself.
Myth: There is no intercourse after 40 so who needs birth control?
This myth still persists, leaving many women to ponder the end of their sensual lives. But whether in the same relationship or perhaps starting a new one, the possibilities for sensuality and intercourse are not completely over. Menopause is not a time when every woman feels sensual or physically attractive, but it does not have to mean that this part of life is over. Rather, many women may even look toward continuing or rekindling their sensual selves and it is always best to use a reliable form of birth control throughout menopause.
Myth: If I stop taking the Pill after using it for several years, I cannot become pregnant.
Women’s bodies can and often do ‘reset’ themselves to their natural rhythms that were present before taking the Pill, or rhythms that would have been present without the Pill. It may take a couple of months for some women’s biological clocks to return to ‘normal’ but many women are caught off guard after only a few weeks. There should always be a fall-back method used on a regular basis or at each intercourse act to protect against pregnancy.
Just like puberty, menopause is a time of great physical changes in women’s bodies. But unlike puberty, women are much more experienced in life matters and need to be made aware of the risks of pregnancy during this time. Women need to adjust to their bodies during this ‘advanced puberty’ and understand that menopause is not quite the end of reproduction. Knowing the facts from the myths and continuing to use birth control will help ensure that more of the pregnancies that occur are fully planned for.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You