People who have been pregnant or have breastfed a baby are less likely to experience an early menopause. This may be because ovulation is temporarily stopped during pregnancy and slowed down during breastfeeding, maintaining a reserve of eggs for longer.

The team found that people who had experienced pregnancies that lasted at least six months had a lower risk of experiencing an early menopause – defined as menopause before the age of 45 – than those who hadn’t.

“We observed a linear trend,” says Langton. “Women who had one pregnancy had an 8 per cent lower risk, those who had two pregnancies had a 16 per cent lower risk, and those that had three pregnancies had a 22 per cent lower risk.”

The link isn’t explained by infertility, says Langton. Her team accounted for this by removing people who had reported that they were trying to conceive but hadn’t become pregnant from the study sample. “There was no difference in the results,” says Langton.

Breastfeeding also lowered the risk of early menopause. People who breastfed for a total of seven to 12 months over their lifetime who had any number of infants were 28 per cent less likely to experience menopause before the age of 45 than those who had breastfed for less than a month. Those who exclusively breastfed for a total of seven to 12 months over their lifetime and who had three pregnancies had a 32 per cent lower risk of early menopause.

JAMA Network Open DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19615

A specialised microbial community in humans is the vaginal microbiome. Successful human reproduction depends heavily on the correct balance of these microbes.

An optimal vaginal microbiome results in the production of lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, maintaining a level of acidity that keeps pathogenic bacteria at bay.

When the vaginal community becomes disturbed, on the other hand, acidity decreases. Pathogenic or other opportunistic bacteria may then invade, which can cause bacterial vaginosis. This is best described as a state of dysbiosis rather than infection.

Research suggests that probiotic supplementation may be of benefit in maintaining homeostasis of the vaginal microbiome thereby reducing the risk of infection, dysbiosis and subsequent inflammation and immune dysfunction.

Menopause, despite the fact that it has happened or will happen to every single person with a vagina, is still a pretty confusing milestone—especially for those who experience it.

For the most part, it’s common knowledge that, once a woman stops having her period, then she also stops having the ability to have children. Or at least it was, until news reports highlight that women past childbearing age—like Omaha native Cecile Edge, at 61 years old—are able to give birth to their own grandchildren in some instances.

So what gives? Can you give birth after menopause? Health asked ob-gyns about any misconceptions that may be had around if (and how) someone can give birth after hitting menopause—and what to know about giving birth past childbearing age.


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