Premature menopause — what are the signs? | Your KAYA
Premature menopause — what are the signs?

Share

Premature menopause — what are the signs?

Menopause is a natural process. It affects every menstruating person. Sooner or later. What if it comes too early? What if we’re not ready yet for early menopause symptoms? We’ll answer the key questions. For starters: what is premature menopause? Main course: how to diagnose and treat it? For dessert: how to live with it?

Dominika Gajewska

Published: 9.04.20216 minreading time

Premature menopause illustration

Illustration: Jarek Danilenko

Knock, knock! It’s Your KAYA team here! We feel that you should know that we’re always striving to make our articles inclusive but sometimes research gets in our way. Unfortunately, in order to remain 100% reliable we’re forced to stick to the binary labelling put forward in the research we’re backing our texts with.

Menopause — goodbye periods

Let’s get theoretical. There are three periods in the life of a woman. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the bloody ones. They are: pre-reproductive, reproductive, and post-reproductive ages. The middle one begins with the first period and ends with menopause — the last menstrual bleeding.

First up… menopause! Otherwise known as climacterium. It’s a stage when ovarian function ceases. As a result, periods stop. It’s a process stemming from the decrease of ovarian follicular activity and changes of the concentration of sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Although it’s a natural phase of a woman’s life, it brings about various unpleasant symptoms. Hot flashes, bad mood, fatigue, decrease in sex drive, and urinary infections, to name but a few.

If you want to know more about menopause, check out our other article Menopause — a curse or a new lease of life?”. Today, we’re focusing on the problem of premature menopause. It affects a considerable number of people worldwide. Here you’ll find some typical symptoms of early menopause. Timely reaction and control of the situation are pivotal to select suitable treatment options.

Why so soon?

On average, menopause begins at the age of 50. The exact age varies across different countries. Statistically speaking, Polish women cease to have periods aged between 48 and 52. But menopause might find you much sooner…

Medically speaking, we’re talking about primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) or premature ovarian failure (POF). These bring about the same symptoms as premature menopause.

Premature menopause affects more and more menstruating women. It’s estimated that 1 in 100 women gets menopause early. It results in the decrease of reproductive years and the concentration of hormone levels, especially estrogen. The risk of various ailments and diseases increases. Premature or early menopause is when periods cease before you’re 40. It may happen even sooner.

Premature menopause — causes

It’s said that premature or early menopause is connected to the history of the reproductive age. Research shows that the sooner you have your first period, the sooner menopause might happen. Scientists still argue but such connections were observed in women in Poland, Spain, and Italy, among other countries. Another factor is the age of first and last childbirth. The length of menstrual cycles also plays a role here. The longer the cycle, the later menopause comes. Premature menopause might occur in women with a history of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Ovarian cancers, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and autoimmune disease (such as Hashimoto’s, Addison’s, or coeliac diseases) are also listed among possible causes.

Demography might also influence the early onset of menopause: race, background, job, marital status, or place of residence, to name but a few. Health problems are also taken into consideration. In addition: stress, depression, lifestyle (lack of physical activity, bad diet, drinking, and smoking) also have an impact on your body. Most often, premature menopause is caused by genetic and hereditary factors (i.e. vertical gene transfer). If a mother or grandmother had premature menopause, it’s likely that a daughter or granddaughter will also cease to menstruate early. See our other article – menstruation 101.

Signs of early menopause

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) manifests in several typical ailments. Menstrual changes are one. Periods may come more frequently, but might be more or less heavy. Other symptoms are:

  • excessive skin and vaginal dryness,

  • frequent and sudden hot flashes, sweating,

  • sleep problems,

  • palpitations, especially in stressful situations,

  • mood swings,

  • weight gain.

Symptoms of premature ovarian insufficiency may vary from woman to woman. They might occur with different frequency and intensity. It’s paramount to react to those changes.

Early menopause — diagnose

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of premature menopause, or at least a few of them, visit your doctor. A gynaecologist should ask about your family history and run some tests, including transvaginal ultrasound, cytology, and blood tests. You should also check your hormones; those produced by the ovaries (estrogen and progesterone) and those produced by the pituitary gland (follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone). High FSH levels and low estrogen levels might indicate early-onset menopause. Your doctor should implement the treatment accordingly.

Can premature ovarian failure be reversed?

Sadly, no. Premature menopause is usually irreversible. However, existing treatments might alleviate the majority of the symptoms. In 2016, a Greek scientist claimed that he’d found a way to “rejuvenate” the ovaries. His method aimed at restoring ovulation in women in perimenopause. Unfortunately, his work met with heavy criticism. The study group was small and the lack of control groups challenged the credibility of the research.

Premature menopause — treatment

With premature menopause diagnosis it’s imperative to select the right treatment. Your doctor might order hormone therapy (hormone replacement therapy, HRT). It replenishes sex hormones’ concentration (estrogen and progesterone). Their job is to boost the ovaries, thereby improving the functioning of your organism and mood. This type of treatment is usually continued until the natural menopause hits you. It decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis (decreased bone density), which might contribute to other health concerns. The treatment might continue if the patient so wishes. Hormone therapy might significantly improve life quality by eliminating and/or alleviating the menopause symptoms. It contributes to reducing vaginal atrophy by enhancing its elasticity and the functioning of the urinary system. However, hormone therapy isn’t for every woman. There are some contraindications which should be discussed with a doctor.

There are ways of delaying menopause. It’s advisable to visit your doctor regularly. Test yourself to minimise the risk of early menopause. What else? It’s common knowledge that a healthy lifestyle, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet (especially vegetarian) contribute not only to a slim silhouette, but also to your inner health. In addition to alleviating some menopause symptoms, these can also delay its arrival. Stress has a tremendous impact on our organisms. Try to reduce it and relax more! Using combined oral birth control pills may also help. They hinder the development of ovarian follicles, simply stopping ovulation.

When are you going to have kids?

In the case of women with premature ovarian insufficiency there are problems with fertility. Women in their 50s most probably have had children, but for women before 40 things might look differently. Today, many women postpone pregnancy. Until recently, raising kids has been the priority. Most pregnancies happened between the age of 20 and 30, when your fertility is at its finest. Today, more and more women put education, job, and career first. Getting pregnant is put on the back burner. 

Nice things to dry your eyes with

I don’t know a woman who dreams of premature menopause. It’s imperative to remember about people who can support you in your struggle with early menopause. While taking care of your physical health, don’t forget about your mental state. But how to brighten up among the nagging menopause symptoms? Is there a magical cure?

Highly doubtful. Yet, there are ways of alleviating the Weltschmerz and bad mood changes. In our online shop, under “Nice things”, you’ll find quite a few products made with love which will jolly you up. You’ll find there a cherry pit heating pad. Its warmth is like sun rays on a bright summer morning. The most important thing is… We’re here for YOU! So if you’re looking for support groups, here we are — reach out if you need some virtual hugs! 

References

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/premature-and-early-menopause

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/early-menopause/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3634232/

Author

Dominika Gajewska

Expert check

lek. Karolina Rasoul-Pelińska
Ginekolog
See other articles

Menopause

Menopause — a curse or a new lease of life?

There comes a time in life when menstruating people start to experience peculiar changes in their bodies, they feel worse, and have mood swings. Menopause usually happens when you’re around your 50th year of age and is generally not an easy experience. How to survive the inevitable? Is it always so black as they paint it? Let’s have a look at the reasons why menopause is so demonised and what to do to break the curse.

Dominika Gajewska