While it becomes increasingly difficult for a woman to get pregnant as she moves into her 40s and approaches menopause, it’s not impossible. Just because you’ve skipped a period here and there it doesn’t mean that you’ve reached menopause. We all know couples with teenagers and kids in college who are unexpectedly visited by the stork!

The definition of menopause is going for a full 12 months without menstruating. Until that time you’re in perimenopause, a transitional phase when you are still ovulating, but not regularly. Perimenopause is the beginning of the end of your reproductive cycle, but not the end. It’s quite possible to become pregnant in perimenopause. If you don’t want to become pregnant, continue using birth control.

Six Important Facts about Birth Control Pills and Menopause

There are some things you should know about menopause and hormonal birth control:

  1. First, if you use the pill, the patch or other hormonal forms of birth control, the hormones used to prevent pregnancy can also mask the symptoms of menopause. Skipping a period is a sign of pregnancy, but can also be a sign of approaching menopause.
  2. Hormonal birth control makes your menstrual cycle more regular. Irregular cycles are a sign of approaching menopause, which you might not experience if you mix birth control pills and menopause.
  3. Birth control pills or patches also may help with menopause hot flashes, definitely a big benefit.
  4. Some doctors prescribe low-dose birth control pills to perimenopausal women. They have a much lighter dose of hormones than regular pills. They prevent pregnancy while also providing other benefits: in addition to alleviating hot flashes, they can help regulate heavy or irregular periods, and prevent bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  5. The pill, patch or other forms of hormonal birth control are just one method to consider, and are not appropriate for some women. Women who smoke, or have had a stroke, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure or blood clots should not use this method of birth control. Different women have different physical responses to the pill. Because clinical results vary, it’s really important to consult with your doctor about the best solution for your own needs. According to Menopause.org, a website of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), “You need to use an effective, safe, and appropriate method of birth control until menopause is confirmed if you don’t want to get pregnant at midlife.”
  6. If you do mix birth control pills and menopause, don’t be surprised if you continue to bleed as if you were getting your period, even after you’ve reached menopause. The hormones cause a “fake period.”

When the transition from perimenopause to menopause is complete, you no longer have to worry about unwanted pregnancies, and that’s a big relief for most midlife women. It’s liberating, and that can lead to great sex!

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