Menopause before age 45 impacts your fertility. But there are still options to consider if you want to get pregnant. This guide covers everything you need to know about early menopause and having children.
Menopause is when your ovaries stop releasing eggs and periods stop. It usually occurs between ages 45-55 but may happen earlier. Early menopause is ages 40-45. Before age 40 is premature menopause.
With early menopause, your fertility declines ahead of time. But you may still ovulate and get pregnant during perimenopause – the transition stage before full menopause. Once periods have stopped for 12 months, natural pregnancy is unlikely.
Why Early Menopause Reduces Fertility
The ovaries contain all the eggs you’ll ever have. Each month, one matures and is released. This is called ovulation.
For conception, an egg needs to be fertilised by sperm and implant in the womb. This process is powered by hormones like oestrogen and progesterone.
With early menopause, your egg supply declines faster. Ovulation becomes irregular and eventually stops as hormone levels drop. This causes fertility problems before the average age.
While you may conceive during the perimenopause, your chances are lower. But if you want children, there are options to explore.
Can You Still Get Pregnant?
During perimenopause, ovulation is unpredictable. Some months you may ovulate, other months not. It’s possible but harder to get pregnant naturally.
Once you are fully menopausal and haven’t had a period for 12 months, natural pregnancy is very unlikely. At this point, you’ll need assistance.
In premature menopause before 40, ovaries can sometimes start functioning later. Up to 10% may ovulate again and conceive naturally if they haven’t had ovaries removed.
What Are the Fertility Options After Early Menopause?
If you want to get pregnant after early menopause, talk to your GP and a fertility specialist. They can explain options like:
IVF With Donor Eggs
Eggs are collected from a donor and fertilised with your partner’s sperm in a lab. The embryo is then transferred into your womb. Success rates are good with donor eggs.
IVF With Frozen Eggs
If you froze eggs before menopause (e.g. before cancer treatment), these can be thawed and fertilised. But fewer eggs tend to survive freezing/thawing.
A surrogate carries and gives birth to a baby for you. She may use her own egg with your partner’s sperm or donated eggs/sperm.
Adopting a child involves assessment, training and interviews. You’re then matched with a child by an adoption agency.
In some premature menopause cases, ovarian function resumes later. You may conceive naturally if you still have ovaries.
Talk to fertility specialists about your best options. Getting treatment on the NHS depends on eligibility criteria that varies. Private clinics are an alternative.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website lists accredited UK clinics.
How Can I Cope With Fertility Issues Emotionally?
Coping with fertility problems can be emotionally exhausting. It really helps to get support.
- Counselling offers a safe space to talk through complex feelings. Fertility clinics provide this or your GP can refer you.
- Support groups connect you with others facing similar issues. You don’t have to go through this alone.
- Online forums like Fertility Friends also provide peer support and advice.
- Lean on your partner, family and friends for comfort and understanding.
Talking through the rollercoaster of emotions can make the process more bearable.
Where Else Can I Get Menopause and Fertility Support?
Useful organisations for fertility support and advice include:
- Fertility Friends
- British Infertility Counselling Association
- Fertility Network UK
- Daisy Network – premature menopause charity
- Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority
Your GP surgery may also have resources and local support groups.
Menopause treatment services can also help manage symptoms alongside fertility treatment.
Early menopause reduces your fertility but doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have children. Use this guide to understand your options. The key things to know are:
- Pregnancy is possible but harder in the perimenopause transition.
- After 12 months without periods, natural conception is very unlikely.
- Fertility treatments like IVF, surrogacy or adoption can help many people.
- Seek emotional support from professionals, groups and your loved ones.
- Connect with reputable organisations for advice and resources.
While challenging, early menopause does not have to end your dreams of having a family. Speaking with fertility and menopause specialists is the best way forward.