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Menopause Q&A by Dr. Stoppler

I'm 43 and having hot flashes and irregular periods. My doctor says these are symptoms of perimenopause. Since I am not having regular periods, can I stop using birth control?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR


Don't stop birth control unless you'd welcome a pregnancy. Perimenopause is defined as the transition to menopause and includes the first year after your final menstrual period. The length of the perimenopause varies widely among women and generally lasts anywhere from two to eight years.

During this time, you will likely have irregular menstrual cycles. The cycles may be shorter or longer than your usual cycles, and you may frequently "skip" periods. Another characteristic of the perimenopause is the increased occurrence of anovulatory cycles (menstrual bleeding in the absence of ovulation). However, as long as you're having menstrual bleeding, you may not know whether or not you are ovulating, and it is possible to still ovulate in some cycles and not in others during this time.

If you are sexually active and do not want to risk pregnancy, you should continue using birth control throughout the perimenopause.

Thank you for your question.

REFERENCE: UpToDate. Patient information: Menopause (Beyond the Basics).

Last Editorial Review: 6/4/2014

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