Understanding Early Menopause

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The average age for the onset of menopause is 50 years old. Menopause occurring before age 40 is known as premature or early. Early menopause occurs around age 40-45. Though the exact cause can vary, genetics and lifestyle factors play a large role. Damage to the ovaries or anything affecting estrogen production can also cause early menopause.

MY Texas Health Care OBGYN Hot Flashes At 40 What To Know About Early Menopause

What are the treatment options?

Early menopause does not require interventional treatment since the stage is a natural part of the process. Despite the onset of some uncomfortable symptoms, early menopause does come with benefits. Below are 5 interesting facts to know about early menopause:

  • The risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increases due to decreased estrogen levels.
  • Menopausal symptoms are often more severe with early menopause.
  • Women with Turner syndrome are born with an incomplete sex chromosome. The ovaries don’t function properly and can cause the woman to enter early menopause.
  • Early menopause cannot be reversed but treatment can help with symptom management.
  • Starting early menopause can protect a woman from estrogen-sensitive cancers.

Bonus fact: Women entering early menopause can still become pregnant but may have to change family planning methods. Egg freezing, using an egg donor, or finding a surrogate are popular options.

What is menopause?

Menopause signals the end of menstrual cycles and marks the end of fertility. During menopause the female stops producing eggs and estrogen levels drop. Most women enter this natural process around age 50. There are 3 stages to menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. During perimenopause female menstrual cycles become irregular. Symptoms may begin during this stage and the woman can still become pregnant. Perimenopause typically starts 3-4 years before a woman’s last period. During menopause the woman has stopped having menstrual cycles altogether. Symptoms are in full swing and pregnancy is not possible. One year from the woman’s last period marks the beginning of post-menopause. Menopausal symptoms should taper off during the first year or two of post-menopause.

Signs and symptoms

Every woman will have a unique experience. Menopause is a natural process that occurs over a few years. Symptoms will start minor before increasing in severity. Medical conditions can quicken the process, intensifying the symptoms. Symptoms can be felt during all 3 stages of menopause. The most common symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, mood changes, weight gain, irregular periods, insomnia, and lower sex drive. Approximately 75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes.

Living with early menopause

Early menopause occurs a few years before perimenopause would normally start. Symptoms can be more severe and there is an increased risk of osteoporosis. Treatment can help with symptom management. On the plus side, early menopause can protect a woman from estrogen-sensitive diseases such as breast or uterine cancer. Women who are approaching menopause can consult with a healthcare provider regarding symptom relief and treatment options.

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