Definition - What does Menopause mean?
Menopause is a natural biological stage in a woman’s life when the menstrual periods cease permanently, eliminating the capability to conceive by natural means.
Menopause is officially labeled once a woman hasn’t had menstrual periods for a continuous 12 month period. It usually hits a woman in the 40s or 50s, with a median age of 51.
FertilitySmarts explains Menopause
As a woman ages, the number of follicles within the ovary and the contained eggs both reduce in number. Additionally, there is a decline in the levels of primary female hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, reflecting the depletion of the egg pool in the ovaries that produce these hormones. However, these changes begin a few years preceding menopause—a period called perimenopause or “menopause transition.”
Menopause and Fertility
While biological and ovarian changes have already begun during perimenopause, the woman’s ovaries are still capable of releasing a viable egg—because of which, natural conception is still possible. Once a woman hits menopause, the ovaries can no longer ovulate (release eggs), removing a woman's natural reproductive potential.
Other signs and symptoms signaling menopause or the period close to menopause include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles (During perimenopause, the periods may pause for a while, but then they start again unlike menopause when the periods do not resume)
- Hot flashes (a sudden feeling of warmth, mostly felt on the face, neck, and chest)
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness, leading to a painful intercourse
- A low sex drive
- Migraine headaches
- Sleep disturbances
- Fluctuations in mood
- Weight gain
- A weakening of bones and
Menopause and In Vitro Fertilization
Once the 12-month time has elapsed, the woman is said to be “postmenopausal.” After menopause, although the eggs are no longer viable, the woman may still be able to reap the benefits of IVF either by using eggs that were frozen at a younger age or by using donor eggs.
However, it’s important to note that there’s a downward trend in the success rate of IVF with age just like that of a natural pregnancy. The registry data of the United States suggests that women who receive donor eggs have stable success rates of pregnancy prior to approaching 45 years, after which there is a minor but steady and notable decline.
In addition to the failure of IVF, older women with menopause also have an increased risk of complications following IVF such as:
- High blood pressure
- Higher rates of cesarean section deliveries
- Adverse outcomes for the baby like premature delivery and low birth weight, which can create further problems