Erramatti Mangayamma from Andhra Pradesh recently made history by becoming the world’s oldest woman to give birth to twins at 74.
Mangayamma reportedly had her menopause almost 30 years ago and underwent IVF (in vitro fertilisation) to conceive. The mother, who had a Cesarean delivery, has been in intensive care since.
With increase in average life expectancy, among other factors including women empowerment and financial concerns, more and more women are opting for late pregnancy. But how does pregnancy after menopause work?
Pregnancy after menopause
First, you need to clarify at what age the menopause happened. Dr Rita Bakshi, senior gynaecologist and IVF expert, International Fertility Centre, told Express Parenting, “Nowadays, the age of menopause is normally 45-52 years. But sometimes, menopause can occur as early as in the 30s also.”
Explaining the process, Dr Bakshi said, “When a woman hits menopause, that is, if she has not menstruated for one year, it means she does not have eggs. So, she will have to take donor eggs, fertilise with the male partner’s before putting the eggs in her body. The woman will also have a very thin lining of the uterus now that she does not have eggs. You cannot conceive with a thin lining, so, she will have to be given hormones to build this up. Once it is ready, the eggs can be placed inside her body.”
The other way to conceive later is by freezing eggs in advance. Women can also freeze their eggs by their late 20s or early 30s, whereby mature eggs are retrieved under anesthesia and frozen in the lab in liquid nitrogen cans, to be used later for pregnancy. That said, one should not try to get a woman pregnant at any age just because it is medically possible, warned Dr Bakshi. As per the 2017 ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) draft bill for assisted reproductive technology (ART), the upper limit of injecting a woman is 45 and for men, 50. The guidelines, however, do not exactly clarify the age limit in case a woman’s own frozen eggs are used, added Dr Bakshi.
Risks of pregnancy after menopause
Pregnancy entails a lot of changes in the body, which can put pressure on the woman’s health after a certain age. In case of an elderly woman trying to conceive after menopause, it can put a lot of load on her heart and body, said Dr Bakshi. “The woman can have diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension that can affect the baby too. The amount of blood increases in your body, which can lead to varicose veins (gnarled, enlarged veins). The woman can undergo trauma while delivering since the bones and muscles are not pliable. Again, there can be placental issues because of abnormal blood supply. Finally, the blood supply has to go from the woman to the baby. Pregnancy will also put a lot of weight on the woman’s joints, which are no longer strong at an increased age,” she explained.