missed a period. Or two. You think to yourself, "Iím
too young for menopause. Right?"
necessarily. Early menopause, between the ages of 40 and 45,
affects about 5 percent of women. Premature menopause, before
age 40, affects about 1 percent of women.
said to be in menopause if you have gone a full 12 months with
no menstrual period. Thatís when your ovaries stop making
estrogen and progesterone, the female hormones necessary to
maintain your menstrual cycles and fertility. For most women,
menopause occurs naturally at about age 51. With increasing
life expectancy, many women will spend up to 40 percent of
their lives in the postmenopausal stage.
women, menopause is induced early because of treatments needed
to save their lives, such as surgery, chemotherapy or
radiation. For others, itís genetic conditions, autoimmune
disorders or even unknown reasons that bring about this
disrupted sleep and hot flashes to dry eyes and weight gain,
menopause symptoms can range from annoying to serious. But if
you are experiencing these things in your 20s, 30s and early
40s, it may make you feel like youíre growing old overnight
ó and aging beyond your friends.
the thing: The signs arenít always clear when you are
entering premature or early menopause. Maybe youíre moody,
but who isnít? Maybe hot flashes have started, maybe not. In
fact, you may not even realize how a hot flash feels. A hot
flash is a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the body
and is usually most intense around the face, neck and chest.
Some women may feel a mild flushing. Other women end up soaked
in sweat and need to change the bed sheets.
without a big neon billboard saying, "Welcome to
Menopause," what should you do? Here are five things you
need to know about early menopause:
not too early to talk to your health care provider. If your
periods change significantly (become noticeably longer or
shorter or vary markedly from your usual schedule) or stop
altogether for three cycles before age 45, make an appointment
for an evaluation. Missing periods can be a sign of other
health concerns too. If you are experiencing premature or
early menopause, youíre at risk for multiple long-term
health consequences, including heart disease, dementia,
Parkinsonism, and osteoporosis if you do not take hormone
therapy, aptly termed hormone "replacement" therapy
under these circumstances. Your health care provider can help
determine if you are, indeed, experiencing premature or early
Hormone therapy is vital for lessening the long-term health
consequences associated with early or premature menopause.
Unless there is a clear reason to avoid hormone therapy in
your particular situation, using hormone therapy at least
until the natural age of menopause (age 51 years) is
recommended by The North American Menopause Society and other
professional medical societies. However, hormone therapy may
not alleviate all of the changes associated with early
estrogen loss, particularly mood changes and sexual
family plans may change. If you wish to have a family, you may
need to consider options such as freezing embryos or eggs. If
you had planned to have children, you may need to allow
yourself to envision a new dream, such as building your family
through in vitro fertilization with donor eggs, adoption or
can get your sexy back. If you are experiencing low sexual
desire or vaginal dryness, talk to your health care provider.
Hormonal treatment with estrogen may help with vaginal
dryness. For some women with low sexual desire who go through
menopause early or prematurely, testosterone therapy may even
be appropriate. And talk to your partner too. Good
communication is associated with higher sexual satisfaction.
may need extra support. If you are in early or premature
menopause, you may need extra time and support to come to
terms with your diagnosis and the consequences, including the
potential long-term health impact and loss of fertility.
Sharing your concerns with your partner, friends and your
health care provider or psychologist can help. Understanding
what is happening to your body and what you can do about it is