Mid-Life Pregnancy

Menopause - Love It ...

Menopause is that time in a woman's life where she can shed the worry of conceiving a pregnancy and stop investing in the sanitary napkin or tampon industry. It is a time of change that goes on for several years, usually beginning in the late 40s and carrying on through the mid to late 50s. Starting with peri-menopause where she's missing a period here and there, having some night sweats and mid-day tropical heat waves, she must experience an entire year without a menstrual period before she graduates to menopause. How many women have gone eleven and a half months without a period, knowing they have finally made it to menopause, and boom - a period shows up? Now they have to start counting all over again.

... Or - Hate It

There are also women who mourn the advancing inevitability of menopause. It marks a time when youth is traded for maturity and that may translate into "old" for some women. Rather than seeing this change as something exciting and great, it is a reminder that youth is gone, the ability to have children is gone, and age has taken away instead of adding-to. This is especially true of women who have tried unsuccessfully for years to conceive and carry a pregnancy.

Pregnancy Rates Higher Than Ever

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of women giving birth in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s, is at record highs. In 2007, 105,071 women between the ages of 40-44 gave birth (the highest rate since 1968); and the birth rate for women 45-54 was 7,349, a five percent increase in just one year.

Some doctors see this increase of births to older women as evidence that older women are able to conceive and carry pregnancies and ultimately safely deliver babies. The idea that age alone should not be a determining factor that would stop women in their 50s from having fertility treatments has caught on in England, India, the US and Europe. Post-menopausal women, many of whom are in their late 50s and early 60s, have been able to have babies using donor eggs. One 70-year-old woman in India gave birth in 2008 to 2-pound twins in an emergency c-section.

Although it is certainly a testimony to the efficacy of ART (assisted reproduction technology) and IVF (in vitro fertilization), other doctors are very concerned about the health issues that can and do arise for both mother and baby in a pregnancy where the woman is in any phase of menopause. The concerns range from pre-eclampsia to heart problems. There are many risks that are intensified and increase during pregnancy, especially a late-in-life pregnancy.

Risk of Cancer

The risk of developing breast cancer increases dramatically for women who have babies through ART because in order to perform IVF it is necessary to give a woman substantial amounts of hormones in order to prepare for and carry the pregnancy. There is a known link between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer which indicates a problem can ensue when there is interference in the natural decrease in hormones. Women who are older are already at an increased risk for breast cancer and the concern is that adding sex hormones to the mix will exacerbate the problem by disrupting the breast cells as they age naturally.

Cardiovascular Challenges

Cardiovascular risks are also increased when an older woman becomes pregnant. The increase in risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) increased from three to four percent in a young women to more than 35 percent when a woman is older than 50. A woman with borderline heart disease, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure is affected when she receives progesterone, which is necessary for in vitro fertilization. Gestational diabetes is yet another concern. Even though is often goes after the birth of the baby, it can be a forerunner of problems ahead. Older women who have none of the common conditions associated with diabetes when they become pregnant often develop it during pregnancy. And, the list goes on.

The risks to the baby are numerous as well. Along with preterm birth, many babies are born with birth defects - mostly cardiac issues. Down syndrome and developmental delays are also common in babies born to women later in life.

Be Sure You've Done Your Homework

If you are a woman in her peri- or menopausal years and you desire to have a child, be sure you spend adequate time discussing the decision with a high-risk ob/gyn. Many fertility clinics have no problem administering ART to women who are menopausal; however, some of the risks of late-in-life pregnancy can't be foretold. Before getting pregnant it is important to have tests for:

· cholesterol

· blood pressure

· blood sugar levels

· EKG for the heart

· ECG, also to determine if there is any prior damage to the heart

· assess cancer risk carefully, especially if it is in the family history

Count the cost carefully before proceeding.

To learn more about natural conception during menopause, read our article in this section.

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