Why does early menopause affect fertility?
Menopause is when you stop having periods and your ovaries no longer release eggs. This means that once you’ve gone through the menopause, you’ll be infertile – or no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
Early menopause is when you go through the menopause between the ages of 40 and 45. If your menopause happens before the age of 40, it’s known as premature menopause (or premature ovarian insufficiency). Most people go through the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.
An early or premature menopause can happen naturally. Or it might be due to certain medical or surgical treatments you’ve had.
Can you get pregnant if you have an early menopause?
If you’re going through early menopause, you may still be able to get pregnant in the phase called the ‘perimenopause’, before your periods completely stop. Your fertility will be declining though, meaning it will become harder to get pregnant. You’re said to have gone through the menopause once you haven’t had a period for a year. You won’t usually be able to get pregnant naturally after this point.
If you have premature menopause, there’s a chance that your ovaries may suddenly start working again, and you may conceive. This happens in up to 1 in 100 people who have been diagnosed with premature menopause.
What are my options for becoming pregnant after early menopause?
If you’ve had an early menopause and still want to have children, there are several options that you may be able to try. Fertility treatment is only available on the NHS up to age 40, so it’s likely you’ll need to pay for it privately. You may want to book an appointment at a fertility clinic to talk through the possibilities. You’ll be able to find an accredited clinic on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website.
Some of the options may include the following.
- In-vitro fertilisation (IVF), using stored or donor eggs, or donor embryos. In IVF, eggs and sperm are mixed in a laboratory, before any resulting embryos are transferred into your womb. You might have stored eggs in advance if your menopause is due to something like cancer treatment. Otherwise, you’ll need eggs or embryos from a donor. Clinics usually have a list of registered donors, or you may be able to find your own. Your doctor at the fertility clinic can talk you through how this works.
- Surrogacy. This is when another woman carries and gives birth to a baby for you. It may be that the surrogate’s own egg is fertilised with sperm from the father. Or it could be that either donor eggs and/or donor sperm are used. Fertility clinics in the UK aren’t allowed to offer services to find surrogates, but they can provide the necessary treatment involved.
You may also want to explore adoption as a potential option for having children.
What emotional support can I get if early menopause is affecting my fertility?
Struggling with fertility problems can be emotionally draining. You may have a partner, friends or family you can rely on. But you may also find it helpful to get support from a counsellor, or people who have been in the same situation.
There are several ways to access this support. All fertility clinics must offer you the opportunity to talk to a counsellor. Some will also give you the chance to talk to other patients who have had similar treatments.
You may also be able to access counselling through your GP, or by referring yourself directly to NHS psychological therapies services. Alternatively, you can opt to see a private counsellor.
Below are some key organisations that can offer support or information about early menopause and fertility problems.
The Daisy Network
Charity supporting women who have had a premature menopause.
British Infertility Counselling Association
Registered charity with directory of accredited therapists, specialising in infertility counselling.
Online infertility community.
Fertility Network UK
The UK’s leading charity providing information, support and advice to all those struggling to conceive.
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority
Government regulator for fertility clinics and research centres, offering information on types of fertility treatment and facility to search for clinics.