Contraception Options for Women Over 40
There's no question that 40 is a milestone birthday. It's a midlife point—a time to reflect, evaluate, consider, think. Is this the right career for you? Are you happy in your marriage or relationship? How are your children turning out? Is it time to have children?
But as you muse upon the course your life has taken up to now and where you want it to go over the next decade, don't forget to consider one very important component: Contraception. Whether you're finished having children or considering having your first one (don't laugh: in 2005, the birth rates for women 35 and older rose to levels not seen in almost 40 years), the only thing standing between you and the unexpected is your contraception.
Because while you may be moaning about your first gray hairs and the fact that it's suddenly become harder to lose those final (or first) five pounds and you've started paying as much attention to your retirement fund as to your kids' college fund, the reality is that some things really haven't changed very much. We're talking about your fertility—your ability to become pregnant. Yes, it's true that fertility declines with age. However, up to 80 percent of women between 40 and 43 can still get pregnant. In fact, your fertility doesn't end totally until you reach menopause—the day you've gone 12 consecutive months without a period.
Unfortunately, this is a fact that many women your age don't know. One study found that women in their late 30s and early 40s who were still sexually active thought that if they didn't get pregnant, they were infertile. Nope. They were just lucky.
In another study of 55 women with a median age of 72, just 55 percent said their doctor ever discussed sex with them once they turned 40. You can bet that if their doctors weren't talking to these women about sex, they probably weren't talking to them about contraception either.
All of which leads to the somewhat scary statistic you need to know: 29 percent of pregnancies in women 35 to 39 in the United States are unplanned, as are 38 percent of pregnancies in women 40 and older. Of those unplanned pregnancies, 56 percent end in abortion.
Bottom line: Even if you're finished with childbearing, you and/or your partner should take precautions to prevent pregnancy.
What to Use
By this point in your life, you've probably been through the contraceptive version of soup to nuts. Birth control pills, IUDs, condoms, jellies, and creams.
So now what do you do?
That depends on your answer to one question: Do you want more children?
If you answered yes, then you need reversible contraption. Your options include:
Birth control pills. Healthy women over 35 can safely use oral contraception, as long as they don't smoke, have normal blood pressure and have no history of cardiovascular disease. In fact, you can keep using it until age 50.