If you have normal periods, the hormones create a thick lining in the uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg. If no fertilized egg attaches to the lining, the body sheds it and you have a period. When you begin perimenopause, the beginning of menopause and sometimes used interchangeably, you'll have irregular periods. This is because the production of hormones, which create the lining of the uterus either cease production or slow in production. Once you cease menstruation for a year, you're officially menopausal.
It's important to note that pregnancy does occur during perimenopause. Consider it your body's "last hurrah" to reproduce. To make matters even more confusing and elusive, often women don't realize they're pregnant because they haven't had a period. They easily explain weight gain from pregnancy as weight gain from menopause. In these cases, pregnant women that believe they're in menopause seldom resort to taking a pregnancy test or have a physical. Often it isn't until later in the pregnancy, when they finally realize it might not be menopausal symptoms, do they seek doctor's care.
Pregnancy During Menopause
The interchanging of terms between menopause and perimenopause make it confusing. The correct usage for the term menopause is the cessation of periods for a year or longer. While underweight, malnutrition and low body fat create menstrual cessation, often longer than a year, it normally does not occur from the late forties through age 60. If cessation of periods occurs for any reason other than normal aging, then, yes, potentially you could be pregnant during menopause. However, the odds are quite unlikely.
Pregnancy After Menopause
Once a woman passes into a true menopausal state, she ceases ovulating. Total cessation of ovulation makes conception impossible. However, an occasional period, no matter how minuscule, indicates there's still ovulation and a potential for pregnancy.
Most late-in-life pregnancies occur during the perimenopausal phase, when periods still occur occasionally and the body squeezes out the last bit of sexual hormones necessary. A woman in the perimenopausal phase of her life isn't as likely to get pregnant as a 20 or 30 year old, but it doesn't mean that it can't happen. For this reason, birth control is necessary until at least a year beyond your last period, if pregnancy is not part of your plans.
Symptoms of Pregnancy and Menopause
You'd be amazed at how perimenopausal symptoms mirror pregnancy symptoms. Of course, the most obvious is the missed period caused by perimenopause and pregnancy.
During pregnancy, fatigue sets in and most women find that it's difficult to get up in the morning. Often this is because of the change of hormones produced and energy used by the body for pregnancy. Perimenopausal women also experience fatigue but it comes from interrupted sleep caused by their change in hormones.
Both pregnant women and perimenopausal women have a reputation for mood swings. They both occur for the same reason, changes in the body's hormones.
Hot flashes seldom occur in pregnant women, so if you have all the above symptoms and hot flashes, you're probably not pregnant.
What to Do if You Suspect Pregnancy
If you think you might be pregnant, see a doctor for a blood test. Often home pregnancy tests aren't enough to detect your condition immediately. Many women have spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, during a perimenopausal pregnancy. The health of your child may be at stake. If you have the blood test and it shows you aren't pregnant, you can relax.