Getting Pregnant After Menopause—How Likely Is It To Happen?

Getting pregnant after menopause could happen, according to experts.

Menopause is still a pretty confusing milestone—especially for those who experience it. For the most part, it's common knowledge that, once a person stops having periods, the option of having children is no longer available.

Or at least that's what was believed. An April 2020 case report from the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research followed the case of a 54-year-old woman who gave birth to a baby girl at 34 weeks—7 years after menopause had begun.

Health asked ob-gyns about any misconceptions that may be had around if and how someone can give birth after hitting menopause—and what to know about giving birth past childbearing age.

Can You Get Pregnant After Menopause?

"The answer to that is: Yes," Julian Peskin, MD, an ob-gyn at Cleveland Clinic, told Health—but before you know exactly how and why, you need to know a bit about how menopause works to begin with.

Menopause itself is a single point in time 12 months after an individual has their last period, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). When you're no longer getting your period, your body is officially done with its reproductive years, and you cannot get pregnant naturally after menopause.

You can, however, get pregnant during perimenopause. According to the Office on Women's Health, perimenopause is the period of time before your last period. During perimenopause, irregular periods, along with other perimenopausal symptoms, are around for quite a while until menopause officially hits.

That means until you reach the point of menopause, you can still conceive naturally: "You ovulate infrequently, but you still ovulate," Dr. Peskin said. So, even if you're going through perimenopause, if you don't want to get pregnant, it's wise to still use a birth control method, Margaret Nachtigall, MD, an ob-gyn at NYU Langone, told Health.

What if You Want To Get Pregnant After You've Hit Menopause?

Okay, so let's say you've already hit menopause—meaning your last period was 12 months ago or more—but you would still like to get pregnant. If that's your choice, science is on your side through a process called in vitro fertilization (IVF).

According to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), IVF is essentially the joining of a woman's egg with a man's sperm, outside of the person's body (in a laboratory dish). In people who are of childbearing age, there are five steps to IVF: stimulation, egg retrieval, insemination and fertilization, embryo culture, and embryo transfer.

However, if you are going through menopause, you are not producing eggs; therefore, you would not need to go through the first two steps. Instead, you would have to use eggs from a donor—a fertile woman who donates an egg to an infertile individual for the IVF process.

From there, it's like any other IVF pregnancy: Once a fertilized egg divides and becomes an embryo outside of the body, per the NLM, it's placed inside the person's womb, where they can carry the embryo—then fetus—to term.

What Are the Risks Associated With Being Pregnant After Menopause?

Of course, as with all pregnancies, getting pregnant via IVF comes with risks. But, if you're otherwise healthy, an IVF-induced pregnancy after menopause won't necessarily bring any new risks to the table.

The risks are the typical ones associated with pregnancy, Dr. Nachtigall explained—such as preeclampsia, infections, and preterm labor (labor that begins prior to the 37th week of pregnancy). And some people who try IVF after menopause don't have to worry about certain age-related pregnancy complications. "Since you're using an egg from a younger person, there's no increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities," Dr. Peskin said, who has worked with women in their 50s who have had children this way.

The bottom line: If you haven't yet reached menopause but are perimenopausal, you can definitely still get pregnant. But if you've already hit menopause, it's not necessarily "too late" for pregnancy.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles