Home Health & Wellness Early Menopause: Are You Going Through the “Change”?

Early Menopause: Are You Going Through the “Change”?

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Menopause signals the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle; it is a normal biological process that typically occurs to women between the ages of 45 and 55. But some women experience menopause at a younger age; that is known as early menopause or premature menopause. 

Early menopause can present unique challenges and raise concerns about fertility, physical health, and emotional well-being. We asked the experts from a women’s health and abortion clinic in Fort Lauderdale to provide information about early menopause. Today, we’ll explore its causes, symptoms, potential health implications, and the available management options to help women navigate this significant life change.

Understanding early menopause

The early onset of menopause is the cessation of menstruation before age 40. It is vital to differentiate early menopause from premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or premature ovarian failure (POF), where the ovaries suddenly stop functioning as they should, leading to reduced or irregular periods while still having the chance to get pregnant. In early menopause, while fertility declines, women stop having their periods, decreasing their ability to get pregnant.

Causes of early menopause

The exact cause of early menopause can vary from one woman to another, but several factors contribute to this condition:

  • Genetic predisposition. Family history can play a role in determining the age at which menopause occurs. If a woman’s mother or older sisters experienced early menopause, she may be at higher risk.
  • Decreasing reproductive hormones. As you approach your late 30s, ovaries decrease oestrogen and progesterone production – the hormones controlling menstruation – and your fertility decreases. Your menstrual cycles may lengthen or shorten in your 40s, become heavier or lighter, and be more or less frequent. Eventually, around age 50, your ovaries stop producing eggs, and you cease having periods.
  • Medical treatments. Certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may damage the ovaries and induce early menopause, especially if the treatments are exposed around your brain or pelvis.
  • Surgical interventions. Removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) for medical reasons, such as in cases of cancer or severe endometriosis, will trigger immediate menopause.
  • Autoimmune disorders. Some autoimmune diseases can affect ovarian function, leading to early menopause.
  • Lifestyle factors. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition may also play a role in the timing of menopause.

Symptoms of early menopause

Early menopause symptoms are comparable to those of natural menopause and can include the following effects:

  • Irregular periods. Menstrual cycles may become irregular, with periods becoming more or less frequent.
  • Hot flashes and night sweats. Sudden, intense feelings of heat and sweating, often accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and flushing
  • Vaginal dryness. Reduced oestrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, leading to discomfort during this transition.
  • Mood changes. You may experience mood swings, irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression. That’s normal due to hormone changes and fluctuations.
  • Sleep disturbances. Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep may become more prevalent during this time.
  • Fatigue. Low energy levels and fatigue are common complaints and sensations many women experience as symptoms. 
  • Libido changes. Some women report a decline in libido while they go through this transition.

Health implications of early menopause

Early menopause may have profound health implications that women should be aware of.

  • Infertility. Early menopause can significantly reduce fertility and the ability to conceive naturally.
  • Bone health. Oestrogen is essential for maintaining bone density; osteoporosis and fracture risk can rise with early menopause.
  • Cardiovascular health. Oestrogen also helps protect the heart and blood vessels. As it declines, the risk of cardiovascular disease may increase.
  • Urinary incontinence. You may have frequent, abrupt, and powerful urges to urinate or the loss of urine when coughing, laughing, or sniffing. That happens because your urethra and vaginal tissues become less flexible. You may also be more prompt to catch vaginal infections. 
  • Emotional well-being. Coping with early menopause can be emotionally challenging, leading to anxiety, stress, or feelings of loss.

Managing early menopause

While early menopause is not preventable, several strategies can help manage its effects and how they impact your day-to-day life.

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT can supplement declining hormone levels and alleviate menopausal symptoms. It may also offer protection against osteoporosis and certain heart conditions. 
  • Bone health. Adopting a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, engaging in weight-bearing exercises, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can support bone health.
  • Fertility options. Women concerned about fertility should consult a fertility specialist to explore assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or egg freezing.

Final thoughts 

Early menopause is a significant life event that can impact a woman physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential health implications of early menopause is crucial for effectively managing this transition. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, friends, and family can help women navigate the challenges and embrace this new phase of life with confidence and empowerment.

Remember that every woman’s experience is unique; with the proper knowledge and support, you can embrace early menopause as a natural part of the journey to optimal well-being.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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