The reality of early menopause
The last decade has seen an increasing number of girls going through early menopause or cessation of periods while still in their 20s and 30s. There has been a rise from 1 per cent to 6 per cent in such cases.
Normal age for menopause is 45-50 years. Early menopause would mean any woman entering this phase at an age less than 40 years. The ovary or egg producing organ of the body stops producing or is rather depleted of eggs, which in turn causes hormonal depletion, mainly of oestrogen and cessation of menses and its associated effects.
Lifestyle choices bringing you closer to early menopause
Increasing trends are generally attributed to poor diet patterns. Fried and oily foods, soft drinks, aerated drinks do contribute to the progression of this process. Lifestyle habits like smoking and alcohol consumption definitely contribute towards this issue. Packed foods and non-stick pans with PFC coating have also been associated with early menopause.
Medical changes bringing you closer to early menopause
Hormonal problems in young women related to thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, and diseases like diabetes could give rise to such a situation. Increasing stress levels at work, home or at personal levels disturbs the internal hormonal balance and can lead to early cessation of menses.
Some medical conditions like autoimmune disorders, or undergoing surgery or chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancers also effects the ovarian function and destroy the available eggs required to maintain fertility.
Signs you are reaching early menopause
Irregular periods have often been looked upon just as a variation of the normal. This is a poor visualisation of the problem for those women for whom it might be a sign of early menopause.
Perimenopausal women, due to declining oestrogen levels, experience symptoms of hot flushes, irritability, mood swings, depression, sleep disturbances, memory loss, and vaginal dryness at and around the time of menopause.
These symptoms may not all necessarily come as a package, but subtle signs need to be noticed and expert advice on this matter should be sought. Many ignore or would not want to accept these early symptoms in the first place.
Along with the symptoms and menstrual irregularities, laboratory tests like AMH (Anti-Mullerian hormone) help in the diagnosis of premature menopause. It is a valuable prognostic indicator of the remaining egg reserve and hence the fertility of the lady.
Problems related to early menopause
Early menopause leads to fertility issues and social issues. In the long run, these women could:
Experience the risk of early bone loss causing brittle bones or osteoporosis putting them at an added risk of getting fractured easily.
They get exposed to the threats of ovarian and intestinal cancer increases.
They are more susceptible to heart and brain attacks or stroke.
Treatment for early menopause
So far there is no treatment to get back the egg reserve, but oocyte preservation for fertility in cases picked up early is like a boon in disguise. Fertility clinics provide services for the same and help in conception at a later date.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), always under medical guidance, helps young women especially under 40 to sail through this difficult period gracefully and to prevent long term problems. HRT in the form of tablets, gels and lubricants also help to ease the problem of vaginal dryness.
It would be a good option to see a counsellor who could help to tide over this crisis. Menopause and midlife health clinics usually have this multidisciplinary approach to set things right but none without support from family and friends.
As of date there is no way to predict the beginning of menopause and no definite do’s and don’ts to avoid it. Lifestyle measures, good diet, exercise, fitness programmes, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol play a pivotal role for young women in their 20-30’s to maintain their vitality and fertility.
So, whether you are a bride-to-be or a newly married, keep these things in mind and lookout for symptoms that might be signs of early menopause. A little safety on your part will go a long way, especially when it comes to your health.