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40-something, female and sexually active? You should read this

If you are a sexually active woman in your 40s, and practising some form of birth control, you may want to scan an article that appears in this week's edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Three doctors specializing in obstetrics and gynecology – Rebecca Allen, Carrie Cwiark and Andrew Kaunitz – have outlined the risks and benefits of contraceptive methods for women over 40.

The review article is aimed at other physicians, providing them with some guidance on what to recommend to their older female patients. Still, you may find it interesting to see what your doctor is reading.

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One key message: Pregnancy over 40 is fraught with potential problems, including an increased risk of hypertension in the mother and chromosomal abnormalities in the offspring.

A woman's age does not dictate the type of birth control that's best for her. But there can be age-related benefits that come from using certain forms of contraception. For instance, estrogen-containing oral contraceptive can help restore menstrual regularity as a woman approaches menopause and her own production of estrogen declines, the authors point out.

There are also some gaps in current medical knowledge with respect to birth control and older women. The article could serve as a useful starting point for an informed discussion with your doctor.

The authors disclosed that they have done consulting work for pharmaceutical companies.

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