Early Menopause is medically known as 'Premature Menopause'.
And Premature Menopause is the name given to women who go into full menopause before the age of 40. Meaning that a woman has not had a period in over a year. If a woman goes into Menopause before the age 45 - it is known as Early Menopause. Confused? Yep me too! Let's look at Early Menopause and Premature Menopause and when to seek medical intervention.
There are treatments available to deal with early menopause. We go through them below.
You are under 40 and haven't had a period in three months or more
You can't get pregnant (infertility)
You are suffering from hot flushes, a dry vagina, and have trouble sleeping
You have mental 'fogginess'
If you are under 40 and experiencing these symptoms, please make an appointment to see your Doctor.
What is the Earliest Age for Menopause?
Menopause often begins between the ages of 45 and 55. But the lead up to menopause, called Perimenopause, can last as long as 14 years! Early menopause is considered between the ages of 40 and 45 years. But only 12% of women will go into early menopause.
Women who suffer from 'Primary Ovarian Insufficiency' can go into menopause as early as their 20's, but this is extremely rare.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency or 'premature ovarian failure' occurs when a woman's ovaries stop functioning as normal before the age of forty years. It can be caused by chromosome changes or genetic disorders, exposure to toxins that lead to ovary failure or an immune system response to ovarian tissue.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency can look very much like early menopause and often has similar symptoms. You are more likely to suffer from Primary Ovarian Insufficiency if you are over 35 years of age, have a family history or have undergone ovarian surgery.
What Causes Menopause at an Early Age?
Early Menopause or Premature Menopause often happens after a hysterectomy where one or both of the ovaries are removed. It can also happen if a woman is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation to the pelvic region which affects the ovaries. During a hysterectomy, best practice is to allow the ovaries to remain in place to prevent early menopause from happening. But damaged ovaries or where a fibroid wraps itself around an ovary can result in them being removed.
Other causes of early menopause include:
A Family History of early menopause:
Women who have a family history of early menopause are more likely to also go into early menopause.
Cancer Treatment, Chemotherapy or Pelvic Radiation Treatments:
These treatments can affect the health of the ovaries or can cause them to stop working completely which will automatically mean early menopause.
Women who smoke regularly can go into menopause up to two years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts. Smokers also suffer from more severe menopausal symptoms.
If a women has had a hysterectomy, even if her ovaries are intact, she can go into menopause a few years earlier.
Other Health Conditions:
There are a number of other health conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, HIV and AIDS, or Myalgic Encephalomylitis that can affect the ovaries.
Is Early Menopause A Serious Health Concern?
Women who have early menopause or premature menopause have reduced estrogen levels which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Early menopause or premature menopause should always be investigated by your Doctor, and you may have to go onto Hormone Replacement Therapy or the oral contraceptive pill to reduce these risks.
If HRT or the pill are not suitable for you, your doctor can recommend other therapies or will refer you to specialist.
Does Early Menopause Mean Early Aging?
Yes it does. Menopause, whether it is early menopause or age-appropriate natural menopause means that your body will age faster than women who are not menopausal. But your cells are only aging 6% faster than non-menopausal women, so it isn't a whole lot. However if you decide to use Hormone Replacement Therapy, this can reduce that accelerated aging.
Menopause does see a reduction in estrogen in the body, so your body fat will naturally be redistributed causing sagging. And the decline in estrogen also can make your skin more prone to sun damage, so make sure you us a good sunscreen every day.
Treatments for Early Menopause or Premature Menopause:
There are a few treatments for early menopause.
Hormone Replacement Therapy:
Supplementing the body with estrogen that your body can no longer make will ease the symptoms of menopause. HRT also helps with preventing bone loss (osteoporosis) and can support heart health. But HRT does come with a small increased risk of stroke, blood clots and breast cancer.
For women who cannot take the pill or who have suffered from breast cancer so aren't eligible to take traditional HRT, there are other options. Non-hormonal options for managing the symptoms of menopause include:
Herbal remedies work for some women. Black Cohosh and Red Clover are two herbs that have been used in Chinese Medicine for over a thousand years. Take them with an open mind and monitor how you feel.
Plant Based Estrogens:
There are many plant-based estrogens can may assist in easing menopausal symptoms. Soy milk and soy beans are a good example. Other estrogen-rich food include:
Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
A good calcium supplement to support your bones is essential, as estrogen is closely linked with osteoporosis. Women between the ages of 18 and 50 should be getting 1000 milligrams of calcium per day, either through food (dairy is rich in calcium) or through calcium supplements. Women over the age of 51 should up that dose to 1200 milligrams per day.
Vitamin D also supports bone health. Aim for 500IU/day through food or supplements.
Ostelin makes a good supplement that contains both calcium and vitamin D. The average woman should take two per day.
By now, we've all heard about the infamous hot flushes, mood swings, and those sleepless nights that menopause can bring. But today, we’re setting sail into uncharted waters, exploring the mysterious, the lesser-known, and the downright quirky symptoms of menopause. Fasten your seat belts (or better yet, pour yourself a cuppa or a glass of bubbly) because we're diving deep!
You've done it! Made an appointment with a Menopause Doctor about your Perimenopausal symptoms! That's great - and a huge step in the right direction. But what should you expect during the appointment - and what will the Doctor ask you? It's always good to be prepared before your first appointment.