The menopause tends to happen between the ages of 45 and 55. We talk about early menopause (or premature menopause) when you complete your menopause before the age of 45. There is nothing scary about this, but many women see it as the end of their youth.
It is something that can happen as a side effect of certain medical treatments, health conditions or because of genetics. If there is no medical or surgical cause for premature menopause, it’s called primary ovarian insufficiency. If you are younger than 45, it’s recommended that you speak with your GP about your concerns.
Symptoms of early menopause
The average length of perimenopause is about four years, although it may last for a few months only or for more than four years. If you’ve gone more than 12 months without having a period, you are no longer in perimenopause.
The main symptom of early menopause is infrequent periods or periods that completely stop without any other reason (such as pregnancy).
Some women may also get other typical menopausal symptoms, including:
- difficulty sleeping
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness
- anxiety or depression
- decreased libido and discomfort during sex
- memory issues
What are the causes of early menopause?
Methods of cancer treatment
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can affect ovarian function and gradually cause menopause due to premature ovarian failure.
Your ovaries stop working
If your ovaries stop producing normal levels of certain hormones such as oestrogen, this can naturally cause early menopause. This is called premature ovarian failure, or primary ovarian insufficiency. Potential reasons for that include autoimmune disease, chromosome abnormalities or extremely rarely, but still possible, infections such as tuberculosis, malaria and mumps.
Surgery to remove the ovaries
If you have a surgery which involves the removal of both of your ovaries (e.g., during a hysterectomy – the operation to remove the womb), this will also trigger early menopause.
If you are a heavy smoker and you’re smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, you are at high risk of early menopause. Research shows that if you’ve smoked for several years and stopped in time, there is a chance you can prevent the harmful effects.
Extreme diets and unhealthy eating can disrupt a woman’s cycle and cause early menopause. This is another reason to stick to a healthy diet.
Stress during puberty
If you’ve experienced severe stress in your teens, you are likely to have caused hormonal disorders that cause early menopause.
Disrupted balance and well-being
The frequent lack of sleep and fatigue lead to disturbances in the functioning of your sex hormones. If you’re regularly exhausted physically and don’t prioritise relaxation to counterbalance that, your body might start accumulating this stress which also speeds up the ageing process.
How can we fight early menopause?
It is trickier to prevent the changes in the body once they have already begun. Therefore, it is good to live as healthy as possible for most of your life and keep your body young for longer.
After the onset of the menopause, it is advisable to either prescribe the combined contraceptive pill or hormonal replacement therapy (HRT). Most often, it consists of the body’s supply of oestrogen and progesterone. Hormonal treatment should be prescribed by a doctor and carried out under medical supervision, because it might lead to certain side effects.
A GP will probably recommend you take your treatment until you reach the age of natural menopause (around 51).
The emotional and physical changes that occur in a woman’s body after the menopause are completely manageable with proper treatment and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, do your best to accept that the menopause is a natural part of life. Every age has its good sides. We need to strive to be able to enjoy them