What Is Early or Premature Menopause?

Menopause is part of a woman's natural aging process. It supposes the end of the fertile stage and is usually experienced after 50 years of age. In some cases, this can happen prematurely, and that is what we will talk about next.
What Is Early or Premature Menopause?

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 16 June, 2021

Last update: 16 June, 2021

Although the most common age for women to go through menopause is between 45 and 50, there are women who can experience it even before the age of 40. This is called premature menopause.

Although this may create some concern at first, especially seeing that it could lead to more intense and unpleasant symptoms, the fact is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

Premature or early menopause

Premature menopause can be hard to cope with
This condition can become a problem, especially for women who want to have children.

The Office for Women’s Health clarifies that, depending on when it occurs, menopause can receive different classifications. These are the following:

  • If menopause occurs before age 45, it is called early menopause.
  • If menopause occurs before age 40, it is called premature menopause.

As stated in the MSD Manual, “From a hormonal point of view, premature menopause looks quite natural. The ovaries produce a very small amount of estrogen, and ovulation ends.” Interestingly, in premature menopause, pregnancy is still possible.

Causes of premature or early menopause

Experts haven’t been able to determine a specific cause of premature menopause. However, they have observed that it can occur as a result of certain health conditions, the consumption of some medications, or the result of some surgeries.

  • Family background. If a woman has a family history of premature or early menopause, the chances that she will also experience it are increased.
  • Smoking Tobacco use can advance menopause by up to 2 years, according to several studies.
  • Surgery to remove the ovaries or uterus.
  • Pelvic chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Some health disorders:
    • HIV AIDS.
    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
    • Autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, vitiligo, and myasthenia gravis.
    • Metabolic disorders such as Addison’s disease and diabetes.
    • Missing chromosomes, as in Turner syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome.

Symptoms

Symptoms of premature or early menopause can vary from woman to woman, and depend on her health status, and whether she has chronic health problems or not, etc.

Some women may not notice any changes except for the absence of menstruation and the fact that pregnancy doesn’t occur. In others, menstrual periods may be present, but they may be less abundant or irregular.

However, in other cases, women may experience the vast majority of normal menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, urinary incontinence, etc.)

Associated risks

Premature menopause can lead to osteoporosis.
The same problems caused by menopause can be suffered in these people, including osteoporosis.

Women who go through early or premature menopause may be at a higher risk for various health problems, as reported in a study entitled Early menopause: A hazard to a woman’s health.

This will also depend on their health status, history, chronic illnesses you may or may not have, lifestyle, and whether or not you’re undergoing treatment for premature menopause.

The absence of estrogens can cause a decrease in bone density (osteoporosis), as well as vaginal atrophy. These are the most common risks associated with premature menopause.

Another possible risk of early or premature menopause is related to hormone therapy. If the woman receives it, the risk of suffering from mood disorders, Parkinson’s disease and coronary artery disease decreases. And if they don’t receive it, it increases.

It should also be borne in mind that, if there’s a genetic abnormality, there may be an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Other risk factors associated with this condition are epilepsy and mumps, both of which can affect the function of the ovaries.

Diagnosis

In order to reach the diagnosis of premature or early menopause, in addition to the interview with the patient, some tests should be requested.

The most common one is the pregnancy test (because the woman may have been pregnant and not going through premature menopause) or a blood test to evaluate the levels of certain hormones. Then, depending on the results, it may be necessary to order additional tests.

Treatment

If the diagnosis of premature menopause is confirmed, the doctor may provide treatment. When considering this, doctors will very much take into account if the woman wants to have children or not. If they do, then in vitro fertilization can be used, and, if not, hormonal therapy (birth control pills) is a good option.

The woman will receive treatment until they are approximately 50-51 years of age, which is when menopause should have occurred. Until then, periodic medical check-ups will be scheduled.

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