Reasons Why Some Women Go Through Early Menopause
One in 100 women will start to experience the frustrating symptoms of early menopause before they turn 40.
Maybe you wake up at night drenched in sweat. Or youre struggling to concentrate, and oh yeah, your period has been MIA. These symptoms are enough to freak any woman out, even when she’s at the right age for menopause, the natural transition to infertility that most women experience around 50. But when these symptoms begin in your 30s, they can be downright scary.
For some women, early menopause is brought on by surgery that removes the ovaries. A woman who carries a BRCA gene mutation, for example, may opt to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes taken out in a preventative salpingo-oopherectomy. The result? Levels of estrogen and other female hormones drop dramatically, which may lead to hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and other telltale signs of menopause.
But one in 100 women will experience these symptoms for other reasonswhich are often hard to pin down. In fact, for about 90 percent of cases a woman never learns the reason why. The technical term for this medical condition is primary ovarian insufficiency . Basically the ovaries poop out early, explains Shawn Tassone, MD, an ob-gyn who specializes in integrative medicine at Austin Area Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Fertility.
RELATED: 8 Reasons Sex Is Better After 50
Stay Connected With Friends
Mood swings are common during menopause, and it helps to have friends around. Menopausal changes can feel frustrating and contribute to mood swings, but talking with friends can make the transition more bearable. You might find that friends going through the same changes feel very similar to you. Reaching out and connecting with friends is one of the best menopause care options for overall wellbeing.
What Is The Difference Between Early And Premature Menopause
Early or premature menopause happens when ovaries stop making hormones and periods stop at a younger age than usual . This can happen naturally or for a medical reason, such as when both ovaries are removed in a hysterectomy.
Early and premature menopause can have the same causes. The only difference is the age at which it happens. Menopause that happens before age 45 is called early menopause. Menopause that happens before age 40 is called premature menopause.
Women who have gone through early or premature menopause cannot get pregnant.
You May Like: What Antidepressant Is Best For Menopause
Psychological Wellbeing & Emotions
The diagnosis of a premature or early menopause can bring many changes and challenges: when menopause does not come at the age and stage of life you expected it to, it can have a major impact on your wellbeing. Women who experience premature or early menopause can be at greater risk of depression, anxiety and mood changes.
It can be very upsetting for some women to experience menopause in their 20s or 30s when they expected it to happen in their late 40s or 50s. Often this is a time of feelings of loss, sadness and grief. These feelings are very common, along with the feelings of losing your body image, fertility, femininity and sexuality, and feeling old before your time.
It can take some time to diagnose a premature or early menopause. Not knowing what is wrong, having no control over symptoms and not knowing what the future holds can be frightening. Some women with early menopause talk of ‘loss of womanhood’ and ‘loss of dreams’.
Associated illnesses, such as cancer and chemotherapy or surgery to remove ovaries, may also alter the course of your life. Plans, dreams and expectations must be re-thought and that can be very challenging and distressing.
During this time, women can experience a sense of loss of control, loss of ability to plan and loss of self-image, but often there is no one with whom to share the grief. Girlfriends might not understand because they are not yet experiencing menopause, and, for some, mothers haven’t yet reached menopause either.
What Is Menopause Its A Moment In Time
Menopause is a specific point in time. Menopause occurs when periods stop and youve gone 12 consecutive months since having your last period. Once youve hit that moment, you enter post-menopause.
Reaching menopause means that youre no longer able to bear children. Every woman except for those whove had their ovaries removed before puberty will go through menopause.
When does menopause start?
The average menopause age is around 51. But some women experience menopause in their 40s with a small percentage experiencing menopause even younger. Some women may not reach menopause until their 60s.
Theres no way to know your exact menopause age until it happens, but genetics seem to play a strong role. You may get a general idea of when to expect menopause based on when your family members went through it, particularly your mother.
Genetics arent the only thing that can impact when menopause starts. Medical factors can also influence menopause timing. When the ovaries are removed, symptoms will begin to show immediately.
Certain medical conditions like autoimmune diseases have also been associated with early menopause. Women whove undergone treatments like radiation therapy or chemotherapy are also more likely to show symptoms earlier.
Don’t Miss: Relactation After Menopause
Premature Ovarian Failure: Early Menopause
Approximately 1 in every 1000 women between the ages of 15-29 and 1 in every 100 women between the ages of 30-39 are affected by Premature Ovarian Failure also called premature menopause. A woman can be affected by POF at any age or time in her life. It can happen before or after she has had children or while she is still planning her family.
No matter what season of life, it is overwhelming and many times there are questions that are left unanswered. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about POF.
An Early First Menstrual Period May Lead To Premature Menopause
How do you know if you’re starting perimenopause?
The most telling symptom is changes in your menstrual cycle, says psychiatrist Hadine Joffe, the executive director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“It’s the menstrual cycle pattern that really defines this lead-up to menopause,” she says. During perimenopause, periods “might be shorter, then a long one, or then a skipped one, or then the flow might be different,” says Joffe.
There’s no blood or hormone test that can “diagnose” perimenopause. Joffe says a hormone test isn’t helpful because hormonal cycles become erratic and unpredictable during this stage.
“There’s not really one point in time when a hormone test is done that can be definitive,” she says. Even if you took several tests over time, “you might get a very different readout.”
Surprisingly, sometimes doctors aren’t prepared to help women recognize the start of this life phase. Edrie was upset at her doctors’ responses â or lack thereof. “I felt so disappointed in the medical industry. How many women has my OB/GYN seen and not recognized the symptoms of perimenopause?”
What symptoms to expect
Dealing With Early Menopause
What is early menopause?
As women age, their bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone, the main hormones involved in female reproduction. When these hormones reach a low enough level, a woman will permanently stop having a menstrual cycle.
Menopause officially begins 12 months after a womans last period. Most women begin menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with an average age of 51 in the United States. But for some women, menopause comes early.
If youre between the ages of 35 and 45 and have missed your period for three months or more, you may be going through menopause earlier than normal. Read on to learn why this happens and what treatments are available.
Certain Women Are More Likely To Have Poi
During the process of menopause, the ovaries slow downproduction of estrogen and no longer release eggs every month, so you donthave your monthly periods. You officially reach menopause when you go 12 consecutivemonths without a period, indicating that your ovaries are no longer releasingeggs.
A number of factors can cause this to happen earlier than expectedin some women, including:
- Autoimmune conditions.
- Cancer treatments including chemotherapy and radiation.
- Family history of POI.
But there isnt always a reason or explanation. It prettyfrequently happens spontaneously, Dr. Batur adds.
Also Check: What Causes Vaginal Odor After Menopause
How Menopause Can Happen With Breast Cancer Treatments
Some breast cancer treatments can bring on menopause more abruptly than it would happen otherwise. Again, this is called medical menopause if its caused by medicines such as chemotherapy, or surgical menopause if its caused by removal of the ovaries. Medical menopause may be a temporary state that lasts while youre in treatment and for some time afterwards, or it can be permanent. Surgical menopause is always permanent.
With medical and surgical menopause, the ovaries stop functioning and hormone levels fall right away or over a period of weeks or months not over a few years, as usually happens with natural menopause. The suddenness of surgical menopause can cause intense symptoms for younger premenopausal women. Medical menopause tends to feel more similar to natural menopause. However, the experience really depends on the individual woman.
The following breast cancer treatments can lead to menopause.
Emotional Impact Of Early Or Premature Menopause
Premature menopause can be emotionally devastating. Some of the common issues women may face include:
- grief at the prospect of not having children
- fear of ‘growing old before their time’
- concern that their partner wont find them sexually attractive anymore
- self-esteem problems.
Psychological counselling and support groups may help women come to terms with their experience of early or premature menopause.
Also Check: Early Menopause After Tubal Ligation
Women’s Health Topics We Need To Talk About In 2020
Mood problems like depression can spike during perimenopause, especially among women who have previously experienced them. Many of our listeners wrote in to say that during perimenopause, they felt incredibly irritable and quick to anger in a way that they had never experienced before.
And of course, many â but not all â women experience hot flashes, though they may not recognize them. “It’s hard, because no one sits us down and teaches us, ‘Here’s what a hot flash feels like,’ ” Stuenkel says. “I’ve seen women who think they’re having panic attacks, or heart palpitations. That can be frightening.”
Other common symptoms include more frequent urinary tract infections, difficulty sleeping through the night, vaginal dryness that can make sex painful, night sweats and a decrease in libido.
What treatments are there for symptoms?
Some symptoms, like heavy or irregular periods, can be managed with an oral contraceptive, which can “shut down the body’s own erratic hormonal fluctuations,” says Stuenkel.
“This can kind of be a lifesaver,” she says. Such medication may help with hot flashes, too.
Hot Flashes During Perimenopause
Most women don’t expect to have hot flashes until , so it can be a big surprise when they show up earlier, during perimenopause. Hot flashes sometimes called hot flushes and given the scientific name of vasomotor symptoms are the most commonly reported symptom of perimenopause. They’re also a regular feature of sudden menopause due to surgery or treatment with certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs.
Hot flashes tend to come on rapidly and can last from one to five minutes. They range in severity from a fleeting sense of warmth to a feeling of being consumed by fire “from the inside out.” A major hot flash can induce facial and upper-body flushing, sweating, chills, and sometimes confusion. Having one of these at an inconvenient time can be quite disconcerting. Hot flash frequency varies widely. Some women have a few over the course of a week others may experience 10 or more in the daytime, plus some at night.
Most American women have hot flashes around the time of menopause, but studies of other cultures suggest this experience is not universal. Far fewer Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian women report having hot flashes. In Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, women appear not to have any at all. These differences may reflect cultural variations in perceptions, semantics, and lifestyle factors, such as diet.
You May Like: Is Dizziness A Symptom Of Menopause
How Is Premature Menopause Diagnosed
To diagnose premature menopause, your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and draw blood to rule out other conditions, such as pregnancy and thyroid disease. They may also order a test to measure your estradiol levels. Low levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen, can indicate that your ovaries are starting to fail. When estradiol levels are below 30, it may signal that you are in menopause.
However, the most important test used to diagnose premature menopause is a blood test that measures follicle stimulating hormone . FSH causes your ovaries to produce estrogen. When your ovaries slow down their production of estrogen, your levels of FSH increase. When your FSH levels rise above 40 mIU/mL, it usually indicates that you are in menopause.
How Do I Know If I Am In Menopause
Menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without having a menstrual cycle. If you are currently not having periods, but it has not yet been 12 full months, you might be in menopause, but you cannot be sure until you have gone a full year without having a period.
Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can also lead to medical menopause, which can be temporary or permanent.
Don’t Miss: Can Having Tubes Tied Cause Early Menopause
Can Early Menopause Be Reversed
Early menopause cant usually be reversed, but treatment can help delay or reduce the symptoms of menopause.
Researchers are investigating new ways to help women who are in menopause to have children. In 2016, scientists in Greece announced a new treatment that enabled them to restore menstruation and retrieve eggs from a small group of women who were in perimenopause.
This treatment made headlines as a way to reverse menopause, but little is known about how well it works.
The scientists reported treating more than 30 women, ages 46 to 49, by injecting platelet-rich plasma into their ovaries. PRP is sometimes used to promote tissue healing, but the treatment hasnt been proven to be effective for any purpose.
The scientists claimed the treatment worked for two-thirds of the women treated. However, the research has been criticized for its small size and lack of control groups. Though the research might have potential for the future, its not a realistic treatment option right now.
Are There Treatments That Can Ease The Symptoms Of Perimenopause
Many women get relief from hot flashes after taking low-dose birth control pills for a short time. Other options that may control hot flashes include the birth control skin patch, vaginal ring, and progesterone injections. Certain women should not use birth control hormones, so talk to your doctor to see if they are right for you.
You may also feel better if you do things that enhance your general well-being, such as:
- Stop smoking.
- Get more sleep and try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
- Drink less alcohol.
- Get to a healthy weight and stay there.
- Get enough calcium in your diet.
- Ask your doctor if you should take a multivitamin.
Talk to your doctor if you are having problems with your sex drive. They may be able to recommend a counselor or therapist to help you and your partner work through this problem. Vaginal lubricants may also be recommended, if vaginal dryness is a problem.
Talk to your doctor about your specific symptoms and goals of treatment. This will help them make a plan that is right for you.
How Is Early Menopause Treated Or Managed
Early menopause generally doesnt require treatment. However, there are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of menopause or conditions related to it. They can help you deal with changes in your body or lifestyle more easily.
Premature menopause, however, is often treated since it occurs at such an early age. This helps support your body with the hormones that would normally be made until you reach the age of natural menopause.
The most common treatment includes hormone replacement therapy . Systemic hormone therapy can prevent many common menopausal symptoms. Or you may take vaginal hormone products, usually in low doses, to help with vaginal symptoms.
HRT does have risks though. It can increase your chances of heart disease, stroke, or breast cancer.
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits to your individual care before starting HRT. Lower doses of hormones may decrease your risk.
On Average Menopause Begins Around Age 52
Kathi Valeii is a freelance writer covering the intersections of health, parenting, and social justice.
Menopause occurs after a person stops having their period for 12 consecutive months. It naturally happens for many people when they are between the ages of 40 and 58. In the United States, the average age for menopause to start is 52 years.
Certain factors, like never having children and smoking, can make it more likely that menopause will occur earlier.
Before menopause, declining estrogen levels can cause people who menstruate to experience premenopausal symptoms. Menstrual changes, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, and other symptoms are the result of hormonal shifts that are taking place during this time, which is called perimenopause.
Perimenopause can last from two to eight years. On average, people experience perimenopause for four years before menopause begins.
While many people go through menopause in their early fifties, there are a number of unique factors that determine at what age a person will start menopause, as well as what their experience will be like.
You May Like: Is Lightheadedness A Symptom Of Menopause