Are you concerned you might be going through early menopause? Have you been experiencing changes in your health that seem related to hormone imbalance? You’re not alone. About 5% of women globally go through early menopause.
We understand how the physical changes can be difficult for you to come to terms with – you didn’t expect them for years yet. But the psychological effects of early-onset menopause can also be scary – especially if you were hoping to get pregnant naturally.
However, don’t despair straight away. Help is available.
For example, it’s possible to minimize the side effects of early menopause with hormone therapy and some lifestyle adjustments.
So, our goal with this article is to share everything you need to know, including causes, symptoms, treatments, and how you can live with it well. Let’s start by understanding what early menopause is.
What are Early Menopause and Premature Menopause?
Menopause itself is natural. It marks the end of your menstrual cycle and fertility, usually between the ages of 47 and 53. The precise moment of menopause is when you haven’t had a period in 12 months, meaning your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and your estrogen and progesterone production stops.
However, for a few women, the last period arrives as early as their twenties or teen years. One in every 100 women under the age of 40 goes through premature menopause. If your period stops before 45, doctors name it early menopause. The only difference between the two definitions is when they happen.
If this has happened to you, your doctor may have used the technical term for premature menopause: premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). But in both cases – premature and early menopause – ovaries stop producing hormones vital for your overall wellbeing and reproduction.
This results in an interruption of your periods at a much younger age than the average 51 and can lead to the hormone rollercoaster that’s caused you to read this article.
Both early and premature menopause may happen naturally – or they can follow medical treatments or surgeries, such as hysterectomy. Either way, the symptoms can be upsetting, so let’s look closely at the main ones.
What Are the Symptoms of Early Menopause?
Suppose you’re under 45 and your period has become irregular, infrequent, or suddenly stopped without apparent reason (e.g., pregnancy). In that case, you should talk to your doctor, as this irregularity can be the first sign of early menopause. Other common symptoms include those of the regular perimenopause period:
- hot flushes
- heavy bleeding
- long-lasting periods
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse
- mood swings
- reduced libido
- difficulty concentrating
- memory problems
- urinary incontinence
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- painful or stiff joints
In addition to these symptoms and the possibility of not being able to conceive naturally at a younger age, be aware you may also have a higher risk of osteoporosis and heart disease due to those lower estrogen levels we mentioned. Your medical provider will be happy to discuss this with you and reassure you about ways to prevent this.
What Causes Early Menopause?
The reasons why ovaries suddenly stop functioning naturally is often a mystery, even for doctors and researchers. But some of the most commonly identified causes include:
The age you go through menopause is usually down to your genes! So, if your mom, grandma, or sister went through early menopause, there’s a possibility you’ll also have this condition.
Chromosomal abnormalities can also cause ovarian failure and early menopause. For example, you may be part of the risk group if you have Turner syndrome (monosomy X).
Inflammation caused by some autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid issues, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, may also affect ovaries, causing early menopause.
Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, can also cause ovarian failure depending on the drugs used, the radiotherapy location in your body, and your age.
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, smoking can also trigger early menopause, as nicotine is directly related to the rate of loss of your eggs.
Surgical removal of the womb (hysterectomy) or the ovaries will also cause hormonal imbalance and induce early menopause.
A gynecologist will make your diagnosis of early menopause based on your symptoms, health conditions, blood tests to measure hormone levels, and family history. Once diagnosed, you can discuss with your doctor the appropriate treatment to best live with early menopause.
At Nava Health we specialize in functional medicine principles when diagnosing, so rest assured we’ll look at all aspects closely with you.
Treatment for early menopause is essential not only to help you cope with the symptoms and have a better quality of life but also to avoid developing other health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.The primary treatment may involve some form of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for severe symptoms – usually, until you reach at least the average age of regular menopause, in your early 50s. But there are many other ways to relieve individual symptoms – including lifestyle changes – that your doctor may advise.
Is it Possible to Reverse Early Menopause?
Unfortunately, there’s currently no treatment to reverse early menopause, but with the proper medication and lifestyle changes, it’s possible to manage symptoms.
One of your main concerns about early menopause could be your inability to get naturally pregnant. For some women, however, the ovarian function doesn’t completely fail, meaning they can occasionally have a period, ovulation, or in sporadic cases, a pregnancy after diagnosis.
Because of this fluctuation in ovarian function, 5-10% of women with early menopause can still get pregnant. For the others, egg donation and IVF may be the best option. There are online support groups to share experiences and advice. Here are some of them:
We Can Help
We’re committed to promoting your wellness and overall health at any age. We understand it’s no fun worrying about menopause in your 40s or earlier, so we’ll investigate your condition, get to the root cause, and provide personalized treatment to help you live well despite any diagnosis.
Call us today to get started, restore your confidence, and get back to feeling your best.