Women Are Hitting Their Menopause Early & That’s Not a Good Thing
Sometimes menopause can occur as early as 30 years leading to various problems related to the woman’s health and reproduction.
Sometimes menopause can occur as early as 30 years leading to various problems related to the woman’s health and reproduction.(Photo: iStock/Altered by FIT)

Women Are Hitting Their Menopause Early & That’s Not a Good Thing

If women had a rupee for every time they’ve prayed for their monthly painful period to go away, they’d be pretty darn rich. But have you ever thought what would happen to your body if one of its natural processes stops abruptly?

Premature menopause is a condition in which a woman stops menstruating completely before the age of 40 years. Sometimes this can occur as early as 30 years leading to various problems related to woman’s health and reproduction.

The ovaries have two functions – to produce eggs for fertility and to produce reproductive hormones. The ovaries are most active during the ages of 20-30 years.

Global statistics suggest that approximately 1-4 percent of women stop ovulating and menstruating before the age of 40 and have premature menopause.

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What Are the Causes, Symptoms and Effects of Early Menopause?

The causes of premature menopause may vary from person to person, the most common causes being:

  • Ovarian surgery, anti-cancer drugs or radiation therapy for cancer
  • Genetic disorders like turnors syndrome, swyers syndrome
  • Infections like mumps, tuberculosis etc
  • Environmental toxins like tobacco etc
  • In 5-30 percent of cases there may be a family history
  • In many cases the cause remains unknown

What are the symptoms?

Due to the hormonal changes following early menopause, a woman may get hot flushes, have mood swings, get irritable, develop insomnia or may also go into severe depression. She may also have hot flashes, decreased sex drive, fatigue, night sweats, vaginal dryness or palpitations.
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Women who attain premature menopause at a relatively young age, face various problems.

  • They stop menstruating and ovulating at a young age, hence natural conception is hampered leading to infertility.
  • Due to lack of reproductive hormones there are many long-term health issues.
  • They can have various symptoms related to estrogen deficiency.
  • They are at increased risk of osteoporotic bone fractures, atherosclerotic heart disease, cancer of the colon, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. All these conditions are related to a low-estrogen state. The risk is similar to that seen after natural menopause.
  • Psychologically a woman may get disturbed because she is no longer menstruating as her contemporaries are, and it makes her feel older.

I have seen such women being treated by various specialists such as psychiatrists, cardiologists, and neurologists, when all they need is a little bit of estrogen therapy.

When checking for diagnosis, the first symptom is absence of periods. Then we check for the above mentioned symptoms.

After that the hormone profile needs to be repeated on three occasions at least one month apart, because in certain instances the ovaries may return to normal after a phase of low activity.

What Is the Treatment?

There are ways to manage symptoms of early menopause and prevention of long-term health risks.

Women who experience such symptoms, their condition is managed with supplements and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). A wide range of HRT options are available for estrogen replacement.

These women will need hormone replacement at least till they reach an age of natural menopause (in order to avoid premature ageing).

Hormone replacement therapy is absolutely necessary in these young women, contrary to women who have reached natural menopause in whom it is optional. One must remember, that in cases of premature menopause the benefits of hormone therapy definitely out-weigh the risks.

Intake of calcium and vitamin D, avoidance of smoking and alcohol abuse also help to prevent osteoporosis which can be a result of early menopause. Affected women are counselled to carry out weight-bearing exercises and to have a balanced nutrition.

(Dr Duru Shah is the Director, Gynaecworld, Center for Assisted Reproduction and Women’s Health. The views expressed above are the author’s own. FIT neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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