Premature menopause occurs when menopause occurs before the age of 40. Though it is often referred to as premature ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency, which is the loss of normal ovary function before the age of 40. Between 1 and 4% of American women experience premature menopause. Typical age of menopause is 51. Women who experience premature menopause stop having periods and can no longer become pregnant. Many women experience physiological and emotional consequences of the end of their reproduction years.
Symptoms of Premature Menopause
Menopause officially begins when you do not have a period for 12 months. Symptoms of premature menopause are exactly the same as those of menopause that occurs about a decade later:
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Cognitive changes
- Hot flashes
- Decrease in sex drive
- Sleep disturbances
There are several conditions that put you higher at risk for premature menopause:
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- You or a family member have an autoimmune disease
- You have tried to become pregnant, unsuccessfully, for more than a year
- Your mother or sister went through premature menopause – if your mother went through early menopause, you are 6 times more likely to do the same
- Smoking or low body mass index
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and have any of these conditions, see your doctor to determine if you are experiencing premature menopause.
In addition to the end of your fertility, premature menopause and losing estrogen levels can put you at increased risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, and more. Because of this, women who experience premature menopause are often prescribed hormone replacement therapies. Hormone replacement therapies ease menopausal symptoms, maintain bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and minimize the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease. In addition to hormone replacement therapies, lifestyle changes such as acupuncture, yoga, or meditation, as well as natural and alternative remedies have been known to relieve early menopause symptoms.
On the other hand, premature menopause puts you at lower risk for estrogen-centric cancers, like breast cancer.