If you have normal periods, hormones create a thick lining in the uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg. If no fertilized egg attaches to the lining, the body sheds it and you have a period. When perimenopause begins, the beginning of menopause and sometimes used interchangeably, you will have irregular periods. This is because the production of hormones, which the lining of the uterus creates, ceases or decreases in production. Once your period stops for a year, you are officially in menopause.
It is important to note that pregnancy occurs during perimenopause. Consider it your body’s “last hurray” to reproduce. To make things even more confusing and elusive, women often don’t realize they are pregnant because they haven’t had a period. They easily explain away pregnancy weight gain as menopausal weight gain. In these cases, pregnant women who believe they are in menopause rarely resort to taking a pregnancy test or having a physical examination. Often, it isn’t until later in the pregnancy, when they finally realize that they might not be symptoms of menopause, that they seek medical attention.
Pregnancy during menopause
The interchange of terms between menopause and perimenopause makes it confusing. The correct use of the term menopause is the cessation of periods for a year or more. While underweight, malnutrition, and low body fat cause menstrual cessation, often for more than a year, it typically does not occur from your late forties to age 60. If the cessation of periods occurs for any reason other than normal aging, then yes, you could potentially be pregnant during menopause. However, the odds are pretty unlikely.
Pregnancy after menopause
Once a woman enters a true menopausal state, she stops ovulating. The total cessation of ovulation makes conception impossible. However, an occasional period, however small, indicates that ovulation is still in progress and a potential pregnancy.
Most late pregnancies occur during the perimenopausal phase, when periods still occur occasionally and the body squeezes out the last amount of sex hormones needed. A woman in the perimenopausal phase of her life isn’t as likely to get pregnant as a woman in her 20s or 30s, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. For this reason, birth control is necessary until at least a year after your last period, if pregnancy is not part of your plans.
Symptoms of pregnancy and menopause
You’d be surprised how perimenopausal symptoms mirror pregnancy symptoms. Of course, the most obvious is the missed period caused by perimenopause and pregnancy.
During pregnancy, fatigue sets in and most women find it difficult to get up in the morning. Often this is due to the change in hormones produced and the energy used by the body for pregnancy. Perimenopausal women also experience fatigue, but it comes from disrupted sleep caused by changing hormones.
Both pregnant and perimenopausal women are notorious for mood swings. Both occur for the same reason, changes in the body’s hormones.
Hot flashes rarely occur in pregnant women, so if you have all of the above symptoms and hot flashes, you are probably not pregnant.
What to do if you suspect pregnancy
If you think you might be pregnant, see a doctor for a blood test. Home pregnancy tests are often not enough to detect your condition right away. Many women have miscarriages, miscarriages, during a perimenopausal pregnancy. Your child’s health may be at stake. If you take the blood test and it shows that you are not pregnant, you can relax.