Q. I am in my late forties, and my periods have become somewhat irregular. I am assuming I am in the beginning stages of menopause. Do I still need to use birth control, or is it safe to go without it?
A. You are correct that irregular menses in the late forties is probably indicative of the beginning of menopause. We now call this time period the perimenopausal transition. The perimenopausal transition lasts on average four years and commonly occurs around the ages of 46 to 48. The average age of menopause occurs around 51, when there is complete cessation of menses.
Fertility rates drop dramatically between age 40 and 44. It becomes very difficult to achieve pregnancy after age 45. Pregnancy can occur during the perimenopausal transition, and the presence of menses reflects the presence of egg production and hormone release. The latest recorded spontaneous pregnancy occurred at age 57. To prevent unwanted or unexpected pregnancy, birth control should be used until there is complete absence of menses. A consultation with your physician should review the best options of birth control for your health profile and age.
Steven D. Wolf, D.O., FACOG
LifeCircle Women’s Healthcare, PC
2301 North Ocoee Street