As women age, their hormone levels fall and menopause begins, ultimately resulting in their ovaries no longer producing eggs. However, while many women believe that menopause happens overnight, the process can actually take years to complete, and until then, a woman can still get pregnant!
When a woman goes through menopause, her body phases out menstrual cycles until they stop altogether. The woman may go for months or even a year between having one period and the next. This long time frame is what may lead to a menopause baby.
During the time when the female body is not having a menstrual cycle, the body may still be releasing those last few eggs. If the egg is released and there is a viable sperm waiting to fertilize the egg, you can, and will, get pregnant.
Thanks to the lack of a normal menstrual cycle, you may not notice you are pregnant until you are months into the pregnancy. There have even been cases where mothers of a certain age have gone to the hospital with stomach and back pains only to leave the hospital a few days later with a baby in their arms.
As you go through the cycle of menopause, it's important to keep regular gynecological checkups. These checkups will help you treat any symptoms as well as allow for the doctor to possibly detect a rouge pregnancy before it is too late to begin prenatal care.
It is important to keep track of all your menstrual cycles well into menopause and take note of any changes occurring in the body. There are clear signs when a pregnancy begins that will not be synonymous with menopause. These symptoms may include the total cessation of periods, an unexplained increased in weight, and swelling of the extremities.
Many women over the age of 40, feel they are not in need of contraception during sex due to perimenopause, or pre-menopausal symptoms. In fact, many women continue to ovulate well through their 40’s. Contraception is the only way to ensure you are not going to get pregnant when sexually active. The contraception option most chosen by women of menopausal age is tubal ligation.
During tubal ligation, the fallopian tubes are cut, burned or clamped off to prevent further pregnancies. While the procedure must be completed by an obstetrician under general anesthesia, the recovery time is very short.
The menopausal baby is something that is a reality. When the number of periods decline, this does not mean the female body is not ovulating. Ovulation can occur without a period and pregnancy can occur well into the 40’s and 50’s. Women who believe they are experiencing menopause will need to be free of a menstrual cycle for at least one year before they are officially post-menopausal. And, even then, the chance of pregnancy, though rare, is still there.
As you enter the menopausal stage of your life, you might be wondering if you can still get pregnant. It’s a good question, since the answer will affect family planning and birth control decisions.
It’s important to understand this transitional time of life. Even if you’re having hot flashes and irregular periods, it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. It does mean you’re probably a lot less fertile than you once were, though.
You haven’t officially reached menopause until you’ve gone a whole year without a period. Once you’re postmenopausal, your hormone levels have changed enough that your ovaries won’t release any more eggs. You can no longer get pregnant naturally.
Continue reading to learn more about the stages of menopause, fertility, and when in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be an option.
The word “menopause” is often used to describe the time of life following your first symptoms, but there’s more to it than that. Menopause doesn’t happen overnight.
During your reproductive years, you produce estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). In the middle of your monthly cycle, LH, FSH, and estrogen work together, prompting your ovaries to release a mature egg during ovulation.
Ovulation can’t occur unless your hormone levels are within the optimal range. If the egg is fertilized, LH stimulates progesterone production to maintain the pregnancy.
Perimenopause is a time of transition — the “change of life.” Your ovaries are starting to produce less estrogen and progesterone. LH and FSH levels are starting to rise as your ovaries are becoming less responsive to them.
As your hormone levels fluctuate, you may start noticing symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Your periods are getting irregular in length and frequency. Your ovaries may release an egg some months, but not others.
Although your fertility is declining, you can still conceive. If you don’t want to get pregnant, you need to use birth control throughout perimenopause. This phase can last for several years.
During perimenopause, your periods may seem to have stopped, but then they start up again. That can happen many times, which can trick you into thinking you’ve reached menopause even though you haven’t.
If it’s been an entire year since your last period, you’ve reached menopause. For most women, this occurs somewhere between the ages of 40 and 55, with an average age of 51.
Once you’ve reached menopause, your LH and FSH levels remain high and your estrogen and progesterone levels remain low. You no longer ovulate and you cannot conceive a child.
Once you’re postmenopausal, your hormone levels will never again be in the suitable range for ovulation and pregnancy. Birth control is no longer necessary.
IVF after menopause has been successfully demonstrated.
Postmenopausal eggs are no longer viable, but there are still two ways you can take advantage of IVF. You can use eggs you had frozen earlier in life, or you can use fresh or frozen donor eggs.
You will also need hormone therapy to prepare your body for implantation and to carry a baby to term.
When compared with premenopausal women, postmenopausal women are more likely to experience both minor and major complications of pregnancy after IVF.
Depending on your overall state of health, IVF after menopause may not be an option for you. It’s worth consulting with a fertility expert who has worked with postmenopausal women.
One avenue of study is treatment using a woman’s own platelet-rich plasma (autologous PRP). PRP contains growth factors, hormones, and cytokines.
Early efforts to restore activity in the ovaries of perimenopausal women indicate that ovarian activity restoration is possible, but only temporarily. Research is still in the early stages. Clinical trials are underway.
In a small study of postmenopausal women, 11 of 27 who were treated with PRP regained a menstrual cycle within three months. Researchers were able to retrieve mature eggs from two women. IVF was successful in one woman.
Much additional research on larger groups of women is needed.
Health risks in pregnancy increase with age. After age 35, the risks of certain problems rise in comparison to younger women. These include:
The older you are, the more likely it is that you have a preexisting health condition that could complicate pregnancy and delivery.
It is a known fact that more women than ever are waiting to conceive for a variety of reasons. Science has proven fertility health can begin to decline rapidly around the age of 40 and after, making it especially important to prepare for pregnancy prior to conception. Preconception health is known to influence how a woman progresses through perimenopause and enters menopause and will also impact pregnancy health.
Preconception hormonally-driven symptoms, including menstrual cycle changes, are the main reason women seek additional testing or reach out to their healthcare providers for support. While these symptoms are important to know about, it is equally as important to know that presentation and severity of perimenopausal symptoms varies greatly from woman to woman.
“A woman may go in and out of a perimenopausal state for as many as 10-13 years before she arrives at true menopause (the average age of which is 52 in the US). This means that it is perfectly normal, in fact natural, for a woman as young as 40 to begin feeling foreign and seemingly inexplicable changes in her body and emotions. The important thing is to recognize that symptoms, at any age, are the body’s way of telling you that it is not getting the support it needs.” ~ Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP
The following guide will share the symptoms briefly referred to above and how to naturally support the body in preparation for pregnancy when traveling through perimenopause. It is important to look at fertility health from a holistic perspective – with the belief that our fertility is influenced by the interconnection of the physical body, the mind, spirit and the environment in which we live; all of these things work together to lead us to overall health and well-being.
Age is a key factor in determining if a woman is perimenopausal. There are also a variety of symptoms reported by women that doctors may use in part to determine if a woman is perimenopausal. These symptoms are only truly useful in determining perimenopause in the absence of other reproductive health issues.
The symptoms are:
There are a number of women who experience only a few of these symptoms and others who unfortunately experience many of them. It is normal during perimenopause for periods to become irregular and differ from cycle to cycle. What can be challenging in pinning down perimenopause as a culprit for the above symptoms, is that many other health problems may exhibit similar symptoms. Having a fertility health condition (uterine fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, etc.) can also contribute to irregular menstrual cycles and disordered ovulation. Ruling out other health problems or fertility issues as the cause for the symptoms is going to be helpful, especially if a woman is wanting to conceive during perimenopause.
So, how can these symptoms be avoided and reproductive health supported during this transition?
As mentioned earlier, natural pregnancy can still occur in perimenopause. Dr. Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP, reminds us that “…it is always good to remember that perimenopause is a volatile time and numbers are not necessarily your destiny…” Maintaining hormone levels optimal for conception and pregnancy may require a stronger commitment to a natural pregnancy preparation program and the goal of becoming a mother.
A main goal during perimenopause is to focus your natural fertility program on supporting adrenal gland and liver health. It is equally important to eat a nutrient-dense diet, manage stress, support emotional health, and exercise. Keep reading to learn why…
The adrenal glands, resting atop the kidneys, release hormones in response to stress. Chronic stress diminishes their health, which in turn impacts fertility health and hormone balance shares Linda Page, ND, PhD, author and educator, in her book Healthy Healing. What many may not know is that the ovaries begin to cease producing estrogen in perimenopause (they completely do so in menopause) at which time the adrenal glands take over estrogen production.
The adrenal glands work to support not only a healthy stress response during perimenopause, but also hormonal balance which is important for a healthy menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Supporting their function during this time may also help you avoid a symptom-ridden transition to menopause when the time comes.
You will not regret taking the time to support your adrenal health! It is also critical to manage stress and support your emotional health! The bottom line is this… each and every person is affected by stress emotionally and in their everyday lives in a different way. One person’s heavy or chronic stress may be mild to another. It is important to find ways to diligently work to lower stress levels every day that suit your needs.
At the age of 40 or older, the liver (the master detoxifier), has been exposed to many years worth of both nutritive substances and toxins. It has continually worked for many years (and hopefully many more) breaking down and expelling excess hormones and toxins circulating within body. It also converts food, fluid, and the air you breathe (including that which the body absorbs through the air we breathe) into the life-sustaining vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and nutrients that fuel and protect the body.
When overworked, or tired it can cause a myriad of symptoms that many associate with hormonal imbalance. These symptoms can certainly exacerbate fertility health issues and efforts to achieve hormonal balance in perimenopause.
It is vital to support liver health in perimenopause. A foundational way to encourage hormone balance and nourish the liver is Fertility Cleansing. Performing a Fertility Cleanse that utilizes specific herbal blends to cleanse the liver and uterus of excess hormones and tissues is a good way to prepare for pregnancy. Fertility cleansing focuses on rejuvenating liver health and preparing the uterus for pregnancy and implantation of an embryo. It is also important to consciously reduce exposure to xenohormones which are those toxins the liver continuously works to break down and expel.
A nutrient-dense, whole food Fertility Diet that is rich in fresh leafy vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fiber, and moderate amounts of lean organic animal products is important for overall health and vitality, fertility health as well as egg and sperm health. A Fertility Diet provides nutrients specific to perimenopausal hormone balance and health that include…
Think about periodically eating flax seeds (Linum usitatissimum). Within a flax seed is a thin black layer/sheath called a lignan that is instrumental in supporting hormone metabolism according to Harvard educated pioneer in integrative medicine Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.. Flax is also high in fiber which helps the body rid itself of endogenous estrogens/xenoestrogens. Freshly grind whole flax seeds at home or purchase a quality oil with the lignans included.
Limit, or Avoid; conventional meat, especially red meats which tend to be high in hormones – choose free-range, organic chicken and coldwater fish like Wild Alaskan Salmon, and avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and highly processed foods. Avoid fried foods as well (eat them raw, steam or bake them).
Herbs and nutritional supplements are able to offer tremendous benefit when eating a clean, whole food diet and living a healthy lifestyle. Consider the following herbs to support hormonal balance during perimenopause:
Herbs to offer additional support are:
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) – Maca is considered a foundational fertility superfood that provides 31 different minerals and 60 different micronutrients for sperm and egg health support, energy and libido. Maca has been traditionally used to support hormone balance by nourishing the endocrine and immune systems, while also promoting a healthy stress response in the body.
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) – Dong Quai is a female fertility tonic that “tonifies and strengthens the uterus by regulating hormonal control, improving uterine tone, and improving the timing of the menstrual cycle,” according to Natural Fertility Company founder Hethir Rodriguez, and does so without estrogenic activity. Dong Quai is a reproductive system tonic that encourages circulation to the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) – Black Cohosh is very commonly discussed in conversations about managing hot flashes in perimenopause and menopause. Black Cohosh has also traditionally been used for absent periods, painful menstruation, uterine and ovarian pain and irritation, PMS-induced migraine headaches, congested pelvic conditions and uterine prolapse.
B Complex – A complex of B vitamins supports a healthy stress response and overall vitality which can impact emotional health/mood, increase energy, support healthy thyroid function and may be instrumental in reducing hair loss (or facial hair growth).
Royal Jelly – Royal Jelly is a quality nutrient-dense fertility superfood. It contains a myriad of nutrients including pantothenic acid (a member of the B vitamin family, B5) that boosts adrenal health, may be instrumental in curbing perimenopausal weight gain (although not alone), supporting healthy libido and a healthy vaginal environment to reduce vaginal dryness.
Evening Primrose Oil – Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) is known to reduce PMS, support healthy cervical mucus production again to reduce vaginal dryness and alleviate painful intercourse, reduce inflammation and support hormonal balance. EPO also provides a quality source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that can help with many symptoms of perimenopause.
Natural Progesterone Cream – Bioidentical hormone creams are often used to alleviate “menopausal” symptoms and may be suggested in perimenopause as well. Consider talking with your healthcare provider about using progesterone cream and seeking guidance on the best dose for your specific need.
Biphasic Menstrual Cycle Support in perimenopause could possibly be the most influential way to impact a healthy menstrual cycle. The FertiliCare Phase 1 & 2 biphasic monthly program contains herbs that have been shown to have an impact on each phase of the menstrual cycle – the follicular phase and luteal phase, as well as regular ovulation. These herbs may also help with perimenopausal symptoms. Four key herbs for supporting perimenopausal hormone balance – liver and menstrual cycle health, ovarian function and libido in these formulas are:
Egg Health in Perimenopause
At the age of 40 and throughout perimenopause, the ovaries begin to lose their ability to produce mature follicles, estrogen and progesterone. Natural Fertility Info.com Senior Herbalist, Dalene Barton-Schuster, reminds us that egg health and ovarian reserve begin to decline around the age of 37-40 (on average) and throughout perimenopause. It is because of this that we feel it is imperative you work to preserve and increase your egg health during this time.
Exercise or movement increases blood flow throughout the body and supports proper oxygenation of the reproductive organs. It also helps to maintain bone mass. Find something to do that you enjoy! Walking, leisurely running, dancing, swimming, or Fertility Yoga are a few fertility friendly exercises.
Learn Fertility Massage
Massage is one of the best natural therapies for increasing blood flow to the reproductive system. Done in the privacy of your own home, Self Fertility Massage can become both a reproductive health and stress-reduction ally for you.
Making healthy prenatal care choices once pregnancy is achieved in perimenopause will help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible and impact the health of your child. Find a doctor or midwife to work with! Specific foods, exercises, stress-reduction tips, affirmations, herbs and nutritional supplements are known to support the body’s needs throughout pregnancy. Click to browse our complete library of articles on pregnancy health…
Perimenopause is considered the preparatory time for the “hormonal hallmark of menopause”, Herbalist Susan Weed acknowledges that menopause = metamorphosis, “the change”. It is not a time to worry about the changes going on within you, but to honor them and focus on supporting your body in managing them without symptoms.
“If you are not supporting your hormones through optimal nutrition, detox, good lifestyle habits and emotional release, your systems will begin to break down. This leads to symptoms. Nature intended us to go through hormonal transitions, but it is not natural or necessary to suffer with unbearable, or even uncomfortable health concerns.” ~ Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Perimenopause is a volatile time during which the choices you make to impact your health may be more important than ever before – especially if you still wish to conceive naturally. Begin to pay attention to the “whole” you – your body, mind, spirit and the environment in which you live. Conception, pregnancy and having a healthy child when over the age of 40 is possible! You are hopefully now well equipped to meet the demands of your body and if need be, we are here to help you along the way.