Menopause – when is it safe to give up birth control?

24 Jun 2020
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Menopause – when is it safe to give up birth control?

Menopause and birth control

As you are navigating your way through your menopause journey you may be wondering when it is safe to give up birth control. Here we look at the possibility of pregnancy during and after menopause and when it’s a safe time to no longer take birth control.

Stages of Menopause

When looking at the possibility of pregnancy during menopause it is helpful to look at the stages of the menopause journey.

Peri-menopause

Peri-menopause are the years leading up to a woman’s final period. During this stage, your periods may start to become irregular, but you are still having them, meaning that your ovaries are continuing to release eggs for fertilization.

Menopause

A woman reaches the menopause when she has not had a period for 12 continuous months, and it is therefore unlikely she will have another.

Post-menopause

This is the period after a woman has not had a period for 12 or more continuous months. The ovaries have now ceased producing and releasing eggs.

The risk of pregnancy

During the peri-menopause hormones fluctuate and the menstruation cycle may become extremely unpredictable. Due to the irregularity of periods, many women forget when their last period actually happened.  When your period was ‘months’ ago it may be easy to think that you are no longer fertile. However, whilst you are still having periods, regardless of how infrequent they are, your ovaries are still producing eggs.  This means you could still fall pregnant.

Along with the uncertainty of when you are potentially ovulating comes the similarity of symptoms women experience when pregnant and going through the menopause. With both, women may feel nauseas, have late periods, and feel bloated. As a result of the similarities, pregnancies may go unnoticed for a couple of months or even more.

Until you have not had a period for 12 continuous months you have not reached menopause and it is still possible to fall pregnant. Some Doctors even recommend waiting until you have not had a period for 2 years before being 100% confident that you can no longer fall pregnant.

Therefore, to be on the safe side, you should continue using contraception until you have not had a period for a continuous 24 months.

Menopause and Birth Control Options

The NHS recommends for women to stop taking the combined pill once they reach 50 years of age. At this time, they suggest changing to a progestogen-only pill or using another form of contraception.

The NHS advises on some other forms of birth-control you may like to consider such as:

Cap or Diaphragm

These are circular domes that you insert into the vagina before intercourse. These are made from thin, soft silicone and they cover the cervix to prevent sperm, entering the womb and fertilising an egg. It must be left in for 6 hours after intercourse, though can be left in for longer. The NHS states that it is approx. 92-96% effective when used correctly.

Condoms

A male condom is made from very thin latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane and stop semen from coming into contact with the man’s sexual partner. When used correctly, the NHS states male condoms are 98% effective.

Female Condoms

These are worn insider the vagina and prevent semen from travelling into the womb. They are made from soft, thin synthetic latex or latex. When used correctly, the NHS states, they are 95% effective.

Natural Family Planning

This method of contraception requires the woman to monitor and record information regarding her menstrual cycle. Due to the irregularity of a woman’s cycle during peri-menopause this method is not recommended.

IUD (Intrauterine Device)

A small T-shaped device more commonly known as the coil. Made of plastic and copper and is placed into your womb by a trained nurse. It provides protection against getting pregnant by releasing copper and is effective for between 5 and 10 years. When inserted correctly, according to the NHS, it is more than 99% effective.

IUS (Intrauterine System)

An IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that releases progestogen.  This is to prevent you from getting pregnant. This is inserted in the womb by a trained nurse or doctor. It can last for between 3-5 years, depending on the brand. The NHS states that it is more than 99% effective.

For further information on each type of contraception detailed above, plus other options please visit the NHS website here.

As with most things, each option has its positives and negatives and what might work for one woman, may not necessarily be the best option for another. It is therefore important to speak to your GP with regards your personal circumstances and decide on the best option for you.

Becoming Pregnant during Peri-menopause

These days more and more women are deciding to have families later on in life with some women seeking to get pregnant during their peri-menopausal years. Although this may prove more difficult, due to the irregularity of ovulation, advances in treatment such as IVF now make this more possible even for women who are post-menopause.

 

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