Early and Premature Menopause
What is it?
Life can sometimes throw curveballs. As women we are given an outline of how our “fertile years” are going to progress, but unfortunately there are times when things don’t go to plan. Two examples of this are early menopause which is is where you go through menopause between the ages of 40-45 years old. And premature menopause which is the term for going through menopause under the age of 40.
If this happens to you it can be confusing or potentially distressing, but it’s important to know that there is support available for you, we have some links for you below.
Sometimes, sadly we will never know. What we do know is that there will be 3 main potential factors:
- Genetic – if your mum or someone in your family went through menopause early
- Lifestyle – smoking, drinking or having partied a little too hard without exercising and having your vegetables can bring menopause on earlier than you expect
- Environmental – interestingly your cultural heritage, high continuous stress levels, unemployment or not having graduated college can also trigger an early or premature menopause
There are other things that can cause early or premature menopause
- Some cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
- Removal of your ovaries (oophorectomy)
- Chromosomal disorders such as Turner’s Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome
- Surgical treatments for endometriosis, or autoimmune diseases that affect the production of hormones in your body.
Happily there is a lot of research going in to this area now, like this article and this paper. It’s important to note that some of these things are absolutely out of your hands, but there are lots of things that you can do to help yourself if you find that you’ve gone into menopause early.
If you have begun to experience a few signs or symptoms that you haven’t had before, this could be an indicator of early menopause. Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen for a variety of reasons for instance while you are pregnant and also postnatally as it involves a fluctuation (or rapid change) of your hormones. It’s important if you are feeling any of the below symptoms that you have a chat with your local doctor that has an interest in women’s health.
Below is a list of the most common signs, remember there might be other reasons for your symptoms so make sure you chat to your doctor:
- Irregular periods – they may be less or more frequent than usual, and you may have a light period one month, and then a very heavy period the next
- Hot flashes/flushes and night sweats – a feeling of intense warmth which spreads up the body, neck and over the face. They come on rapidly and can last for a few seconds to a few minutes
- Insomnia – sometimes, this works in conjunction with night sweats, and other times it can happen on its own
- Bladder control problems – you might notice that you need to go to the bathroom more often than usual
- Anxiety – an increase in your anxiety which may also include panic attacks
- Low libido – you may feel like you have a low sex drive, this can happen due to the hormones changing in your body
- Mood swings – your mood may change very rapidly, you could go from feeling incredibly happy, to angry and/or sad, in a very short space of time
- Vaginal dryness – if you notice that sex has started to become dry and painful, or if your vagina becomes itchy (with no discharge)
Understanding your body
If you are under 45 and have a few of these symptoms (generally about 2 or 3) it’s important to go to your doctor to chat about what’s going on. Early or premature menopause has some potential health implications so you need to get your diagnosis and some proper advice to help you understand your body and navigate the options available to you. As the symptoms come on early you may feel like you’re all alone and going crazy – by talking to your doctor you can get the correct information, education and support as well as a treatment plan to help you feel better.
Premature menopause is said to “affect 1% of women under the age of 40 years and 0.1% of women under the age of 30 years”.
What can I do about it?
We understand that a getting this diagnosis can be a bit of a shock. There are a good number of charity and support groups out there that you can contact or join. Reaching out can help you understand what is going to happen, seek some support and also what potential treatment options are available for you to help you with some of the effects.
Making some adjustments to your lifestyle may help lower some of the symptoms you experience,
We are also here to help. Clarity is designed to help you with some of the symptoms you may experience. You will have access to some sessions for free (including our InstaCool for hot flashes and InstaCalm for times when you’re anxiety starts to overwhelm you). You can check it out by downloading here
There are a number of support networks worldwide – if you know of one that’s not in that list let us know through our contact page and we will add it to this list.
The main thing to know is that you aren’t alone. While this can be a difficult and confusing there is support, information and treatment options that are available to you so make sure you seek help.