I Got Menopause at 32
Between 1 -5% Indian Women Experience Menopause Before Age 40. Sunita Dwiwedi is one of them.
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
(On International Women's Day, FIT is bringing you stories of women's health, often ignored, under reported, in our campaign 'Her Health.')
Sunita Dwiwedi was only 32 when doctors told her she had menopause.
The moment came as a shock - not only to her but also her friends and family.
“For most of my female friends, when I told them, it was like, ‘No! How is that possible? Are you sure? You are too young.’ For male friends, it was like a ten minute shock in their heads.”Sunita Dwiwedi
Sunita got menopause 18 years before the 'normal time' it is supposed to occur - when a woman is in her late 40s or early 50s.
Between 1-5% Indian women experience menopause before age 40. And yet, premature menopause is hardly spoken or researched about.
The percentage of Indian women going through menopause varies in different studies. The figures above have been quoted from studies by The Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) and Health & Social Work Journal.
With narratives of their stories largely missing from mainstream media, I finally found these women on a private Facebook group - where they vent, cry, and share their pain and agony of undergoing premature menopause. But also, find solace in each other, give each other hope and advice, and have a strong sisterhood spanning different continents.
Battling Premature Menopause
Sunita began noticing the symptoms at 31. But doctors finally diagnosed her with menopause a year later.
When she was officially diagnosed with premature menopause, she felt a sense of vindication, as no one around had believed her initially. Perhaps they did not know of premature menopause or perhaps it's because women's pain is generally not taken seriously.
Diagnosis and tests done, she then began to manage the menopause.
Constant tiredness was regular. Sunita also found it difficult to multi task.
“You genuinely feel that your body and your brain is betraying you. I can’t live...if I try to do everything it’s like the body has given up on you.”Sunita Dwiwedi
Always a fit person, Sunita has now begun to take more interest in taking care of her health.
She goes on long walks with her husband in Denver, Colorado in the US, where she lives. She's also managed to successfully manoeuvre a career in IT, as the premature menopause gave her a sense of never compromising on her top priorities.
But how can a woman's ovaries fail in her thirties? The causes could be many. Some studies have also found a correlation between premature menopause and autoimmune disorders.
I have an autoimmune disease. My sister and brother have it too. So we know that we have autoimmune diseases in the family and those are genetic. And there is a cross section (between auto immune disorders and premature menopause). There is no conclusive study but there is more a reference based study that there is a good overlap between themSunita Dwiwedi
Some other causes of premature menopause are genetics (Indian women are prone to get menopause earlier), surgery (if any) to remove the uterus, psychiatric disorders and stress.
'Stress is a Huge Factor'
After undergoing a surgery to remove her ovaries following ovarian tumor, Deepthi Krishna became menopausal overnight. She was only 33 at the time.
I was mourning the loss of my period and also the fact that I might not be able to be a mother for the second time.Deepthi Krishna
Deepthi believes that stress was a huge factor which contributed to her getting the disease that brought her menopause.
I believe stress plays a huge role in derailing the fine balance of our body, particularly the hormonal balance of our body.Deepthi Krishna
'Lifestyle Factors One of The Causes' Says Gynaecologist Dr Deepa Dureja
Indian women generally get menopause earlier than Western women, as per a study published in the paper, The Timing of the Age at Which Natural Menopause Occurs by Ellen B. Gold, PhD. But that's just one of the factors.
Dr Deepa Dureja, a gynaecologist says among the many factors which causes premature menopause, smoking and drinking are the ones most linked to lifestyle.
Nicotine is an enemy of the sperm cells and egg cells equally, although the effects of drinking and smoking on women have not been studied that much.Dr Deepa Dureja, a gynaecologist
Although making babies -depending on the quality of eggs - is still possible for women in premature menopause, it’s not the only thing that should be a medical concern when speaking of the struggles of menopausal women. Premature menopause brings with it different health challenges for women - from an increased risk of heart attacks to osteoporosis.
However, the fact that instead of mid-life, women are at increased risk to medical risks at such a young age in their lives, is enough of a cause for worry.
And yet, there's hardly a few studies on premature menopause and its impact on women.
Meanwhile, Sunita, who I caught up with as she was in Mumbai, tells me she has never wanted to have babies. So for her the premature menopause did not come with the additional heartbreak.
But the pain and the challenges that her body felt were as real as any menopausal woman.
However, it's a fact that for a lot of women undergoing premature menopause, there's this anxiety that comes when it comes to their reproductive future.
But instead of just obsessing over the baby making abilities of these women, as a society, we must also equally care about the mental health and physical challenges of premature menopause.
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