Are You Headed Toward Early Menopause
There are many negative health consequences linked to early menopause, including a higher risk of osteoporosis and fracture, heart disease, cognitive impairment and dementia, and early death, says Dr. Faubion.
If you have questions about when youll experience menopause and if you can do anything to change it, keep reading for answers.
I Got My First Period Early Does That Mean Ill Go Through Menopause Early
I have many patients tell me, I know Im going to go through menopause earlier because I started my period really early, says Streicher. The reason women think that is because they think menopause occurs when you run out of eggs. This isnt going to happen were born with millions of eggs and many of those are never used. When you go through menopause is really about the aging of eggs and what causes them to age more quickly, she says.
The average age of menarche in the United States has gotten younger for a variety of reasons, but that hasnt made women go through menopause earlier, she points out.
Is There Treatment For Early Menopause
Women who experience premature menopause or early onset menopause will often be offered hormone treatment, such as HRT or a contraceptive pill, to boost estrogen levels until the woman reaches the average age of menopause .
This can help ward off some menopausal symptoms and can reduce the risk of developing conditions associated with prematurely low estrogen levels, like heart disease, dementia, or osteoporosis. However, these treatments do come with their own pros and cons, so its worth having a full discussion with your physician before making a decision.
If you think youre experiencing early menopause, give your doctor a call. Youre not alone, and theres no need to be afraid!
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What Causes Early Menopause
As mentioned previously, menopause before the age of 40 are considered to be in premature, or early, menopause. One medical causes of premature menopause is known as premature ovarian failure. Technically, premature ovarian failure is not the same as premature menopause. In premature ovarian failure, the ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. Women with premature ovarian failure may still occasionally have menstrual periods, but they typically experience infertility. Premature ovarian failure is usually accompanied primary ovarian insufficiency. Premature ovarian failure is usually accompanied by the symptoms of premature menopause.
Premature menopause can also be caused by treatments for cancers or other conditions that involve chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to the pelvis. These treatments can damage the ovaries and result in ovarian failure.
Surgery to remove the ovaries, either for benign or malignant conditions, results in premature menopause if both ovaries are removed. Surgery to remove the uterus results in menopause only in the sense that menstrual bleeding does not occur. In that case, the ovaries will continue to produce hormones.
Other infrequent causes that may lead to premature menopause include drugs, chronic diseases, pituitary and hypothalamic tumors, psychiatric disorders, and other relatively rare or undefined conditions.
How Is Early Menopause Is Diagnosed
No special tests are needed to determine the absence of menstrual periods, but sometimes women begin having symptoms of menopause and irregular periods. At that point, they may be tested to determine their ovarian function. For example, tests may be done to rule out pregnancy or other causes of missed menstruation, such as certain thyroid diseases. The level of follicle-stimulating hormone is often measured in the blood to determine whether a woman is nearing menopause and to ascertain the functional status of her ovaries. FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen, so levels of this hormone rise when estrogen levels drop. FSH levels that are higher than 40 mIU/ml are considered diagnostic of the menopause. Levels of ovarian hormones, such as estradiol, may be also measured, as low levels are suggestive of menopause.
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So What Causes Early Menopause
These are the most common causes of early menopause:
Genetics your family history can play a big part in your early menopause age. Asking your mother, grandmother, or older sisters when they transitioned through menopause will give you a good indication of your own menopause timeline. If you have a clear family history of early menopause, you will likely experience the same.
Surgery If you have a bilateral oophorectomy you will experience menopause immediately. If you have a hysterectomy without removal of the ovaries, you might not go into menopause right away, but you will likely experience menopause at an earlier age.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments for cancers can cause damage to the reproductive system, which can trigger premature or early menopause.
Chromosomal abnormalities such as Turner syndrome, pure gonadal dysgenesis, or fragile X syndrome
Autoimmune diseases like lupus, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or Crohns disease
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME
Lifestyle factors including smoking , and having a very low BMI
Treatments To Relieve Signs And Symptoms
There is no treatment that can reverse or prevent premature menopause. However, women who have reached menopause do have treatment options that can help control unpleasant symptoms.
Types of treatments for symptom relief include:
- Hormone therapy: hormone therapy is available in different forms including pills, patches, transdermal sprays, or gels or creams. Localized hormone treatments are also available for intravaginal use. HT/ET is the most effective way to control symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Because HT/ET has been associated with certain health risks , experts recommend using the lowest effective dose of hormone therapy for the shortest period of time necessary for symptom control.
- Oral contraceptive pills are a form of HT that is sometimes used to help relieve menopausal symptoms.
- Antidepressant medications: the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and related medications have been shown to be effective in controlling the symptoms of hot flashes in up to 60% of women.
- Non-hormonal vaginal gels, creams, and lubricants can help prevent the symptoms of vaginal dryness.
- Assisted reproductive technologies: in selected cases, pregnancy may be achieved using donor eggs in women with premature menopause.
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Perimenopause: Rocky Road To Menopause
What are the signs of perimenopause? You’re in your 40s, you wake up in a sweat at night, and your periods are erratic and often accompanied by heavy bleeding: Chances are, you’re going through perimenopause. Many women experience an array of symptoms as their hormones shift during the months or years leading up to menopause that is, the natural end of menstruation. Menopause is a point in time, but perimenopause is an extended transitional state. It’s also sometimes referred to as the menopausal transition, although technically, the transition ends 12 months earlier than perimenopause .
Can I Still Get Pregnant After Being Diagnosed With Premature Menopause Early Menopause Or Primary/premature Ovarian Insufficiency
Unless the ovaries have been surgically removed, it can be difficult to diagnose a woman younger than age 45 with menopause as opposed to primary ovarian insufficiency . Women with POI can have intermittent ovulation, which may or may not be accompanied by a menstrual bleed. Other women may be able to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization with egg donation. It is important to work with a fertility specialist to explore options.
Options available to you will vary depending on whether you have interest in having children in the future. In some cases, fertility may be restored and pregnancy could be possible. Assisted reproductive technology , including in vitro fertilization might be considered.
If you do not want to get pregnant while on hormone-replacement therapy, your doctor will talk to you about contraceptive options.
Talk to your healthcare provider about possible causes of premature or early menopause and your questions regarding fertility.
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What To Do: Partner With Your Gynecologist Now
Even if youre feeling great, I urge you to go to find a great gynecologist and establish a baseline hormone panel around the age of 30.
This will help you understand whats normal for you so you have something to compare this to as your hormones begin to shift during this decade. Talk to your gynecologist ahead of time if you can, and let her know you want to go through this process naturally and unmedicated.
If youre already in the thick of it, its not too late: Get that full hormone panel done to see if you can uncover the biggest hormonal issue youre having, whether its low estrogen, low thyroid, or something else.
This is the point where women always ask me, “Cant I just medicate with hormones?” In my opinion, no.
Just like I dont recommend you go on the pill to fix your period problems, I dont recommend you medicate your perimenopause.
Why? Two key reasons: First, this is a process your body is designed to do. There is nothing wrong, nothing to fix, and you can go through this naturally and drug-free. And secondly, synthetic hormones mask the symptoms that motivate you to make the changes you need to clear up symptoms. They give you a false positive that everything is okay with your health. Perimenopause is an opportunity to make sure you are set for a healthy future.
Can Early Menopause Protect Me From Other Conditions
Starting menopause early can actually protect you from other diseases. These include estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.
Women who enter menopause late are at greater risk of breast cancer than those who enter the transition earlier. This is because their breast tissue is exposed to estrogen for a longer time.
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What It Was Like To Go Through Menopause At 35
By the time my menopause started, my body was no stranger to drastic hormone fluctuations. It was also no stranger to going long stretches without my period, having given birth four times in under six years. But of all the things I expected my thirties to bring my way, the furthest thing from my mind was a change that is typically associated with aging, loss of femininity, and very unsexy symptoms. It took me a minute to really wrap my head around the concept of going through menopause at a time when some of my friends were still having babies.
Early signs of menopause typically include erratic and unpredictable periods. Although it is not unusual for this to start in women in their early forties, they tend to show up in the late forties to early fifties range.
I didnt have any early signs because my period stopped rather suddenly due to the chemotherapy I underwent for breast cancer. I was thirty-five, had four little kids, and had just undergone a preventative double mastectomy to avoid dying of breast cancer like my mother and her mother had in their forties. I was told that once the chemo was out of my system, my period would start again. But due to strong family history and the fact that I was BRCA1 positive, my ovaries were removed once I finished chemo on the advice of my doctors.
My symptoms didnt appear right away, but when they did, they included: Hot flashes An inability to fall or stay asleep at night Thinning eyebrows Bone loss Mood swings
What It Feels Like To Go Through Early Menopause At 35
20/02/2015 4:40 pm
Hot flushes, night sweats, an aching sense of loss. Nia Fisher explains how it feels to go through early menopause
Its a chilly winter night but Im lying in bed sweating, unable to sleep. Ive thrown my duvet aside and got rid of my pyjamas. Ive spritzed myself with water and turned my fan up high, but the heat is still intense, rising from my midriff towards my head in pulsating waves.
When I first experienced this unsettling feeling, I didnt know what was going on. Yes, I knew that night sweats were a symptom of menopause, but I thought that only happened to women in their fifties. I was just 35, single and not sexually active, so when I missed a few periods I thought it was odd, but put it down to stress. As an actress appearing in a West End musical, my work schedule was intense, my dad was having treatment for cancer and I was packing to move house.
I felt more emotional than usual, but it was the constant sweating that disturbed me, so eventually I went to see my GP, who recommended blood tests to measure my oestrogen levels and something called the follicle stimulating hormone in my body. Oestrogen is the most important hormone for regulating your cycle and is essential for reproduction, while FSH helps oestrogen production, so its crucial for fertility. If your level is too high, it can be because your ovaries are struggling to produce oestrogen and the body is working overtime to correct this, indicating youre approaching menopause.
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What Are The Causes Of Early Menopause
Early or premature menopause can happen for two reasons: follicle depletion or follicle dysfunction.
When these occur, eggs dont mature or get released, causing a womans period to stop. These processes are considered normal when they occur later in life. If they occur early, your doctor will likely check for an underlying cause.
Follicle depletion and dysfunction can happen for a variety of reasons:
- Aging. The risks of early menopause rise after age 35.
- Family history. Being related to women who have a history of early or premature menopause may raise your risk.
- Genetic disorders. Having abnormal chromosomes or genes, as occurs in Turner syndrome or Fragile X syndrome.
- Toxins. Exposure to chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy used to treat cancer can affect onset of menopause.
- Autoimmune conditions. When the immune system mistakenly attacks the bodys hormone-producing organs, it can sometimes affect the ovaries.
- Infection. Having certain infections such as the mumps virus.
- Surgery. Procedures to remove the ovaries or uterus may cause early menopause.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your menstrual cycle.
They may also:
- ask about your history of exposure to toxins, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments
- conduct a physical exam
- perform a pregnancy test
Early and premature menopause can increase your chance of developing other conditions. These include:
Can I Put Off Menopause
Natural menopause is a normal transition process that you cant delay or stop. Even around the age of 35, as your hormones start to transition you may not notice symptoms. By your early to mid-40s, fluctuations of your sex hormones estrogen and progesterone may increase. This is when most women begin to notice symptoms. These symptoms may continue to increase in severity through their late 40s and early 50s until they quit menstruating. No matter what age menopause begins, I always suggest that women focus on techniques that reduce their symptoms so they can feel their best during this important stage in their life.
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What Even Is Menopause
founder andâJarrow Formulasâ womenâs health advisor Kameelah Phillips, MD says that while most people have heard about menopause, they’re still confused about what exactly it is. “Menopause is the natural decline of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone,” she says. Dr. Phillips says a person with a uterus is in menopause when they haven’t had their period for a full year. You can also go through menopause if you have your ovaries surgically removed .
“Once you become menopausal you will remain in this stage for the rest of your life. A return of periods or any vaginal bleeding is not normal and should be evaluated by a doctor,” she adds.
Hot Flashes And Night Sweats
Estrogen deficiency throws off how the brain regulates body temperature, and this may lead to hot flashes. A hot flash is a sudden, intense feeling of heat or burning in the face, neck, and chest, often accompanied by redness.
A night sweat refers to a hot flash that occurs during sleep. Night sweats can negatively impact your sleep cycle, which may lead to tiredness during the day.
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Removal Of The Ovaries
If you have surgery to remove your ovaries , you will experience menopause immediately because the organs that produce hormones and release eggs are no longer present.
Menopause that occurs from the absence of ovaries is known as surgical menopause.
Conditions like endometriosis, tumors, and cancer may require a person to have their ovaries removed.
People who have an oophorectomy will experience typical menopause symptoms however, rather than having them come on gradually as they would with natural menopause, they will experience them all at once, which can be intense.
Hormone replacement therapies can be used to treat menopause symptoms. However, hormone therapy is not recommended for people being treated for breast cancer, as it may increase the risk of recurrence.
What Are Treatment Options If You Have A Lower Sex Drive During Perimenopause
If you do experience a loss in libido and are unhappy about it, there are some things you can do to help. Experts recommend asking your doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy, using over-the-counter lubricants, exercising to improve your mood and self-esteem, communicating with your partner to let them know what youre going through, and, whether you have a partner or not, changing things up.
Perimenopause and menopause are natural stages of life, but they can be challenging ones as well. Its nice to know that along with hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia, some perimenopausal women are finding that their sex drives are skyrocketing, and that they are experiencing magic. Heres hoping you are one of these women and if not, that you get the help you need to turn up the heat!
This article was written by Kelly Dwyer, a published novelist, playwright, and freelance writer.
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