Many women stop using contraception after age 40 because they believe they can’t get pregnant. However, infertility rates for women over 40 are lower than many might expect: about 17% at age 40, 55% at age 45 and 95% at age 50.
The Department of Health and Human Services reports an increase in fertility over the past two decades for women ages 40-49. In the United States, 75% of pregnancies in this age group are unplanned and the abortion rate for this age group is increasing. Gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, hypertension and birth defects are more likely to complicate pregnancy in women over age 40.
Women may safely stop using contraception after menopause; this means 12 months without a period for women over age 50 and 24 months without a period for women under age 50. Clinicians should be aware of older women’s risk of pregnancy and talk to their patients about contraception until menopause.
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The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or contraception. The information in the Contraceptive Pearls is unbiased, based on science alone.