Halle Berry shocked the world (and reportedly herself as well) when she recently found out she is pregnant at age 46. Calling the news the biggest surprise of her life, Berry has been quoted in the media as saying, “I thought I was kind of past the point where this could be a reality for me.” She apparently began feeling ill and noticing some weight gain around Oscar time and saw her doctor, believing she would be told that she’s entering the first stages of menopause, or perimenopause. But a few days later, she received confirmation that she was in fact pregnant. So, when a woman of Berry’s age begins experiencing symptoms that could suggest either, how does she know if it’s pregnancy or menopause?
First, it’s important to know that menopause is a process, sometimes lasting multiple years. Perimenopause is the period preceeding menopause during which a woman’s menstrual cycle becomes irregular. She may miss periods, have a lighter flow, or have a heavier flow. During this time, it is still possible to conceive a child, but it becomes less likely as a woman produces fewer and fewer eggs.
Menopause is when a woman halts menstruation, and thus egg production. But it can be hard to tell whether this has happened or the next period is simply delayed. For that reason, doctors consider menopause to be the period of time lasting one year following a woman’s last menstruation cycle. After that point, a woman is considered post-menopausal.
So, until you reach post-menopause, it’s best to consider yourself to be in perimenopause when considering whether to use birth control. Until you know for sure that menopause has taken place, pregnancy – though rare – is possible. But what’s not rare is the increased risk that comes with having a child later in life. Motherhood over age 35 brings about a greater chance of complications like miscarriage, placenta previa, fetal distress, cesarean birth, high blood pressure, diabetes, ectopic pregnancy and premature delivery and also puts the baby at risk for low birth-weight, genetic disorders like Down syndrome, asphyxia, brain bleeds and stillbirth. Berry already suffers from diabetes, so she’ll have to be particularly careful about monitoring her condition during pregnancy.
Sources: intelihealth.com, cnn.com, tmz.com, and usatoday.com