In a woman’s life when menstrual periods cease, It is defined medically as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. The average age for a natural menopause is 51. Sometimes, menopause occurs earlier, due to diseases, genetic factors, or surgery. There is also a wide variation among women regarding the timing of normal menopause. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being around 51. However, about one per cent of women experience menopause before the age of 40 years. This is known as premature menopause. Menopause between 41 and 45 years of age is called early menopause.
Premature menopause is brought on by surgical removal of the ovaries, or by medical treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In the case of premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), the woman’s ovaries spontaneously stop producing eggs and the underlying cause may not always be found. For many women, the loss of their fertility is devastating, particularly if they had planned to have children and menopause occurs before they are able to.
Symptoms of Premature Menopause
Irregular or missed periods
Periods that are heavier or lighter than usual
Hot flashes (a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the upper body)
These symptoms are a sign that the ovaries are producing less estrogen.
Along with the above symptoms, some women may experience:
- Irregular or missed periods
- Periods that are heavier or lighter than usual
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness (the vagina may also become thinner and less flexible)
- Bladder irritability and worsening of loss of bladder control (incontinence)
- Emotional changes (irritability, mood swings, mild depression)
- Dry skin, eyes, or mouth
- Decreased sex drive
Premature menopause will experience a long period of postmenopausal life. Unless there are reasons why a woman is unable to take hormone therapy, hormone treatment, which may be the combined oestrogen and progesterone oral contraceptive pill, or menopause hormone therapy – also known as hormone replacement therapy will be recommended to counteract the health risks of early or premature menopause. These may include early onset of osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
The symptoms and health risks of premature menopause, as well as the emotional issues that may result from it, can be managed with the methods similar to those used for natural menopause. Women dealing with infertility that is brought on by premature menopause may want to discuss their options with their doctor or with a reproductive specialist.
Treatment of premature menopause
There is no treatment that can reverse or prevent premature menopause. However, women who have reached menopause do have treatment options that can help control unpleasant symptoms. Women with early menopause have a long period of postmenopausal life, which means they are at increased risk of health problems such as early onset of osteoporosis and heart disease. For this reason, it is recommended that they take some form of hormone therapy until they reach the typical age of menopause. This may be the combined oestrogen and progestogen oral contraceptive pill, or menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Either option treats menopausal symptoms and reduces the risk of early onset of osteoporosis and heart disease.