Menopause

Loss of fertility

The menopause signals the loss of fertility and brings mixed feelings and emotions for many women whether they have children or not. Here women talk about what loss of fertility means to them.

Liberation
Some women feel liberated by the end of periods and the risk of getting pregnant. A mother of six children explained how the menopause had freed her from being 'a baby machine' and gave her body 'a well earned rest'. A single woman with no children expressed relief that she could no longer get pregnant.
Mixed feelings
Some women had mixed feelings about the end of their reproductive years. They accepted the menopause and loss of fertility as an inevitable part of growing older and appreciated the freedom it gave them. However, this sense of freedom was tinged with sadness because they no longer had control over their fertility.
A sense of loss
Women who had kept alive the possibility of having children throughout their reproductive lives were sad and deeply regretted the finality of the menopause. They talked about having to accept that they would never have children in terms of loss, bereavement and 'unfulfilled maternal power and instincts'. One woman envied friends with grandchildren.
The diagnosis of early menopause in the twenties or thirties can devastate a woman’s life. While fostering, adoption, and in some cases, egg donation may offer hope to some women, many feel that the menopause has taken away their sense of control over their bodies and their right to choose whether or not to have children (see: ‘Early (premature) menopause’, ‘Relationships, sex and contraception’).
A ‘broody desire’
Women who already had children were often surprised to feel a sense of loss at the end of their reproductive life. They spoke of the ‘unfairness’ of a missed period at forty marking the beginning of the menopause rather than pregnancy; and of their regret that having another child was 'not going to be a choice anymore'. The mother of two sons found it hard to accept that she would never have a daughter.
Several women explained how the loss of fertility brought an increased awareness of ageing and mortality, signalling the end of their youth and femininity (see ‘Getting older’). While one woman found this a 'quite nice feeling of getting mature'; another felt that her 'femininity was about to decrease and decline' and wondered how this would affect her new relationship.
Social attitudes to fertility
Several women noted that our society values youth and fertility. That makes some women feel worthless when they realise that their reproductive life has ended.
Women feel an underlying inequality when it comes to fertility. While men’s fertility remains intact throughout their lives, women have to cope with its loss far earlier in life. As one woman remarked, ‘men seem to go on forever but women’s body parts don’t’.

Last reviewed February 2015.

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