As you reach 40s and 50s and enter perimenopause, you might be wondering if it’s time to stop your birth control. The best place to find the answer to that question is our women’s health care providers, who can talk to you about your individual circumstances like current symptoms and medical history. However, there are some general things you should know about taking birth control as you reach the average age for menopause. In this article, we’ll explore birth control during perimenopause and menopause so you know what to expect.
Any time you’re thinking about starting, stopping, or switching birth controls, you should talk to an experienced women’s health care provider like those at our clinics. We can provide you with the birth control counseling you need to make the right choice. This includes discussing risks, benefits, and different options that are available. Even if you think you’re in perimenopause or have reached menopause, talk to our providers about how to stay healthy and protect yourself against unplanned pregnancy.
There is no exact age when women should stop birth control. Instead, most experts recommend using birth control until you reach menopause, which is when you have had 12 consecutive months without a period. The average age of menopause is 51 years old, with over 50% of women reaching menopause by this age. By the time you reach 55, 90% to 95% of women are menopausal. Therefore, our providers may recommend stopping birth control between ages 51 and 55 because you’re most likely to have reached menopause and no longer need birth control to prevent pregnancy.
Yet, before this time, we may recommend changing birth control methods to manage your personal health risks and side effects, so you should be talking to our providers about birth control regularly to see what’s right for you. For instance, hormonal birth controls may not be a good idea for you personally anymore, so you might need to switch to a barrier method like condoms.
Once you reach your 40s, you’re most likely in perimenopause, which is the lead up to menopause. During this time, you can still technically get pregnant, but it’s much less likely because your fertility naturally starts to decline. However, this is also a time of a lot of fluctuation in your hormone levels and menstrual cycle, making it hard to predict when you’re ovulating and when you’re not. These hormone changes can also cause a lot of the symptoms we typically associate with menopause like mood changes, hot flashes, and night sweats.
There are many pros and cons to using birth control after 40 as you lead up to menopause. Birth control helps prevent pregnancy during this time, which comes with many health risks. Hormonal birth controls can also even relieve some of the symptoms you might experience during perimenopause. However, keep in mind that hormonal birth control methods also come with health risks that you need to discuss with our women’s health care providers.
One reason to continue birth control during perimenopause is to prevent pregnancy. While you lose fertility pretty quickly after 40, it is still possible for you to become pregnant until you have reached menopause. Pregnancy at this age also comes with a lot of health risks, including:
Therefore, using birth control during perimenopause can help you avoid unplanned pregnancies that can result in these serious complications.
Not all birth control helps with your perimenopause symptoms. For instance, using condoms is a form of birth control that likely won’t relieve your symptoms. However, hormonal birth controls like the pill often do lessen perimenopause symptoms because they prevent wide hormone fluctuations and provide you with a steady amount of estrogen and progesterone. For some women, hormonal birth control can even mask the symptoms of menopause completely, making it hard to know whether you’ve reached menopause or not.
Keep in mind that a lot of birth control options do come with risks, especially as we get older. Hormonal birth controls in particular can increase your risks for many health issues, including:
If you’re over 35, you shouldn’t take estrogen-based birth control like the pill if you smoke or have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, or diabetes, as the health risks are usually too great. Instead, our women’s health care providers may recommend a different form of birth control, like an IUD, a progesterone-based birth control, or a barrier method.
If you still need to take birth control, then visit our women’s health clinic to discuss your options. There are many different types of birth control you may be able to take safely before menopause. Some of the options include:
The withdrawal method is not recommended as a stable form of birth control at any age because your partner can release sperm before ejaculation and you can become pregnant.
Also, during perimenopause, the rhythm method, where you track your cycles and don’t have sex during your fertile window, isn’t recommended because your cycles can become irregular and unpredictable. Our women’s health care providers can help you decide which birth control method is right for you.
Once you reach menopause, you can stop using birth control to prevent pregnancy. However, it’s often hard to tell if you’ve reached menopause if you’re using a hormonal contraceptive like the pill. These birth control methods often mask symptoms and can cause withdrawal bleeding that mimic periods even if you’ve reached menopause. There are a few ways to tell if you have reached menopause while taking hormonal birth control, including pausing birth control and getting a blood test. Our women’s health care providers can recommend a course of action based on your personal situation.
If you and our women’s health care provider suspect that you might have reached menopause while taking hormonal birth control, they may recommend pausing birth control to see what your body does. This means going off the pill or any other hormonal method you’re currently using to see if your periods return within 12 months. If they don’t, you’ve reached menopause. However, keep in mind that you should still use another birth control method until you’ve confirmed that you are in fact menopausal. We may recommend using barrier methods during this time so you can prevent unplanned pregnancy in case you have not reached menopause.
There is no definitive test for menopause except waiting until you’ve gone 12 months without a period. However, there are some blood tests that may point to you being menopausal. For instance, testing the amount of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in your body. FSH is a hormone that helps your body release eggs and produce estrogen. When your ovaries can’t produce the same level of estrogen due to menopause, the amount of FSH in your blood rises because there aren’t enough follicles to use the hormone. An FSH test can be an indicator of menopause, though it’s not absolutely certain.
Our women’s health care providers may use this test in addition to other things like talking about your symptoms and looking at your menstrual history. Even still, you may want to stay on the safe side and use barrier method birth control even after a FSH test until you’ve gone 12 months without a period.
Get quality care at every stage of life from HerKare. We are a clinic operated by women for women to help you feel your best and find compassionate health care solutions. Our team listens to you and helps you find solutions for improving your health. Whether you need to talk about birth control during perimenopause or you’re suffering from a health condition like diabetes, we are here for you. Make an appointment today to take the first step toward feeling better.