Just because you’re nearing menopause doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant
As women near menopause, many think they no longer can get pregnant. However, it’s still important for women to continue using birth control to decrease their risk of unintended pregnancy.
Some doctors advise against women over the age of 40 using the birth control pill if they smoke, have high blood pressure or cholesterol, or are obese, as these conditions can increase their risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
However, Dr. Jennifer Balash, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. says non-smoking and otherwise healthy women can continue on the pill (and any estrogen-containing contraceptive, including the patch and ring) in their 40s as they transition to menopause.
“The unintended pregnancy rate among women over 40 is 77 percent,” says Dr. Balash. “This rate is second only to the rate of unintended pregnancy among women ages 15-19. Many women in this age group think they will not be able to become pregnant, so contraception use decreases.”
If women want to transition to another contraception method, Dr. Balash suggests the following options for women over 40:
- IUDs: These small, T-shaped plastic devices prevent the fertilization of the egg by damaging or killing the sperm. There are two: copper, which contain no hormones, and hormonal. Less than one out of 100 women will get pregnant each year using this long-lasting method.
- Implants: A small flexible tube inserted into a woman’s upper arm works by stopping the release of the egg by slowly releasing progestin into your body. This device works for about three years and is effective more than 99 percent of the time.
- The patch and the ring: Contraceptive patches and rings work to combat pregnancy by using estrogen and progestin hormones to prevent eggs from leaving the ovaries and thicken cervical mucus to block sperm from reaching the egg. Both the patch, which sticks to skin, and the ring, which is a thin, flexible ring inserted inside the vagina, only last for a month and have about a 95 to 99 percent success rate.
- Shot: An injection of progestin into the arm or buttocks works to prevent pregnancy by again stopping the body from releasing eggs and thickening the mucus at the cervix. This method is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and lasts up to three months.
- Barrier methods: There are many barrier methods that must be put in place before sexual intercourse occurs, including male and female condoms, cervical caps and diaphragms. While these have the highest failure rate, condoms in particular are a great way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
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