Most women don’t have to worry about menopause until their 50s. But some women experience the symptoms of menopause much earlier than others. According to the North American Menopause Society, about 1 percent of women under the age of 40 in the United States experience premature menopause.
While it isn’t easy dealing with menopause at any age, if you’re younger, the symptoms may be especially challenging. Fortunately, specialized treatments may offer relief from the more uncomfortable and life-interrupting symptoms. If menopause starts sooner than you expect and you have symptoms that interfere with your life, exploring your options with your doctor is the first step to feeling like yourself again.
What Is Premature Menopause?
You begin the menopausal transition when your ovaries stop producing reproductive hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, and your periods stop. For most women, this happens after reaching age 50. Premature menopause is menopause that occurs before age 40.
This problem can hit you out of the blue or it can begin because of other factors, such as surgeries you’ve had or medications you’ve taken. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, you could be more likely to experience menopause early if your medical history includes:
- Family members who also went through menopause prematurely
- Some types of autoimmune diseases, such as certain thyroid conditions or rheumatoid arthritis
- A history of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to your pelvic region
- Surgical removal of your ovaries or uterus
- A history of smoking
- Certain other diseases or medical conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome or HIV/AIDS
Unfortunately, going through the menopausal transition earlier than expected may lead to certain complications that can have lasting effects. First, it’s important to understand that once you begin the menopausal transition, you can’t get pregnant anymore. This usually isn’t a problem for older women experiencing menopause—in fact, it may be a relief. But if you’re younger and menopause starts earlier than you anticipated, it can seriously affect your family plans.
Women going through the menopausal transition earlier than expected are also at higher risk for other complications, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, according to the Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research. Your symptoms may be more severe, and you could be at higher risk for developing certain psychological conditions like depression.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Many premature menopause symptoms mirror those older women face. You’ve probably already heard about the hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats. Other uncomfortable symptoms can make intimacy challenging.
Your doctor will diagnose your condition based on your symptoms and certain blood tests that measure your hormone levels. Other tests may be necessary if the cause of your condition isn’t easily identified.
For many younger women, treatment with hormone therapy or oral contraceptives helps relieve symptoms and lowers your risk of developing complications. If menopause starts early and you still want to become pregnant, your doctor may recommend in vitro fertilization as an option for growing your family. Speak with your doctor to better prepare and make the best decisions for your family.
Innovative new treatments offer relief from other distressing or embarrassing menopause symptoms. For many women, MonaLisa Touch® helps restore intimacy and confidence. While this treatment isn’t for everyone, MonaLisa Touch® has already helped many couples rediscover their connection while relieving some of the more painful effects of menopause. Your doctor can help you decide whether this treatment is right for you.
While certain factors may make it more likely for you to develop premature menopause, any woman can develop this condition. You don’t have to worry and suffer by yourself though. Your doctor will help you develop a treatment plan that fits your needs and helps you feel like yourself again.