What is premature menopause?
Premature menopause means a menopause that comes well before the normal average age of menopause. This could happen in your teens, twenties, thirties or early forties. To put it simply, it means that your ovaries aren’t working properly, and you have stopped producing eggs long before your body should. If the body can’t produce eggs this is a serious condition as it affects a woman’s fertility.
The medical definition is a menopause that occurs before the age of 45.
There are different terms to describe it. Regardless of what causes the condition, you’ll find it called any of these:
- premature menopause
- early menopause
- premature ovarian failure
- premature ovarian insufficiency
The condition affects around one in every 100 women under the age of 40, one in 1000 under the age of 30 and one in 10,000 under the age of 20. In total, across Britain, it affects 110,000 women, between the ages of 12-40. It also affects 5% of women under 45.
Medical treatments causing premature menopause
For some women early menopause is caused by surgical removal of ovaries or by medical treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Premature menopause and fertility
For many women, the most devastating consequences of premature menopause is infertility. It can be very hard to come to terms with the fact that you cannot have a biological child. Whilst there are still positive options, such as IVF with donor eggs, adoption and less often surrogacy, you will need careful counselling and care to make choices.
Diagnosis of Premature menopause
We initially diagnose Premature menopause by looking at your symptoms taking into account your age, as well as information about your family and medical history (for example, whether you have had medical treatment that is known to trigger menopause).
If premature menopause is suspected, we will offer a blood test to measure your levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). You should be offered 2 blood tests for FSH, which should be done 4–6 weeks apart (this is because your FSH levels change at different times during your menstrual cycle).
We are experts in reproductive medicine, and you may have been referred to us from your GP where some of this has been carried out
There are both immediate and long-term consequences to health with premature menopause.
The ovaries are no longer producing adequate levels of oestrogen, this is an important hormone for reproduction. There are other longer-term effects of this drop in oestrogen levels. Oestrogen is needed for bone and cardiovascular health as well as for your general well-being.
In addition to oestrogen, ovaries make progesterone and some of the ‘male’ hormone testosterone. The amount of these produced after menopause declines dramatically.
Short Term symptoms are:
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness
- loss of libido
In addition to other symptoms, are caused by a lack of oestrogen in the body. These symptoms are the same as during menopause.
Long term symptoms are:
Over longer periods the drop in oestrogen can increase the risk of heart disease, there is no oestrogen to protect against hardening of the arteries and this can result in other heart problems. The risk of Osteoporosis (Brittle bone disease) increases and this may be a major cause of disability in later life with fractures of the hip, wrist and spine results from a loss of bone density.
Premature menopause is usually treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). A treatment of replacement oestrogen will help with many of the symptoms of premature menopause such as hot flushes and night sweats.
In addition to oestrogen, ovaries make progesterone and some of the ‘male’ hormone testosterone. The amount of these produced after menopause declines dramatically. These three hormones come as a prescription in a variety of combinations that will protect your bone density and alleviate your symptoms.
Getting the right treatment
We may need to work through several types of HRT before you find the one that is best for you. The level of each hormone, their combination and the method you take them can alter to suit you as an individual. By checking and adjusting the treatments the right level and treatment can be discovered.
If you would like to talk to us about any of these points please call to chat it through.