There’s still such a taboo around women’s bodies and talk of periods, hormones, and the menopause will still make many people want to run for the hills, but like many things in life, ignoring something won’t make it go away.
The menopause is a stage of life that happens to 100% of women. It will happen to mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters all over the world, yet for some reason, it doesn’t get spoken about. And even if it is spoken about, it’s usually not mentioned until women reach their 40’s.
This is a problem, because even though for most women in the UK, menopause happens around the age of 52, for some women, menopause can occur before the age of 40. This is known as premature menopause, and it can have very distressing physical and psychological effects.
What causes premature menopause?
It can happen naturally
Early menopause can occur if the ovaries stop producing normal levels of hormones, especially oestrogen. You might hear this being referred to as premature ovarian failure, or primary ovarian insufficiency.
It can be related to some health conditions
Autoimmune diseases are linked with early menopause, and so are some infections like tuberculosis (though this is very rare)
It can be hereditary
Sometimes you can experience early menopause if any of your relatives went through it at a particularly young age.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can cause the ovaries to fail and this can bring on early menopause.
If you have surgery to remove the ovaries or a full hysterectomy, it will bring on premature menopause.
What are the symptoms of early menopause?
You may think you’re going mad or imagining things, or you might even be told ‘you’re far too young for that’ by other women, but if you experience these symptoms, it’s likely that you’re experiencing premature menopause:
– Periods becoming infrequent or stopping for no reason
– Hot flushes
– Night sweats
– Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
– Low mood or anxiety
– Reduced sex drive
– Memory problems
– Difficulty concentrating
I think I’m experiencing premature menopause, what should I do?
If you go through the menopause early, lower oestrogen levels in the body can increase your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis so your first port of call should be your GP. Talk to them about your physical and emotional symptoms. They might send you for a blood test to check your hormone levels, and this, along with information about your symptoms and family history can be enough to diagnose early menopause.
Treatments your doctor might recommend
The treatments that GPs most commonly recommend for early menopause are the combined pill or HRT to replenish missing hormones, and antidepressants to improve low mood and reduce anxiety. Your doctor should talk to you at length about the risks and benefits of these treatments for your overall health.
As well as medical treatments, there are other things you can try to reduce unpleasant physical symptoms, boost your mood, and reduce anxiety, including:
– Exercising regularly
– Eating a balanced diet
– Relaxation and meditation
– Using herbal remedies- Plant extracts like Black Cohosh have been shown in some studies to reduce hot flushes, improve sleep, and relieve low mood.
– Trying alternative therapies- though the research is not definitive, treatments like acupuncture have helped to reduce menopausal symptoms in some women, according to studies.
Premature menopause and fertility
One of the most upsetting things for many women is that going through early menopause will affect their ability to have children naturally. If you do want a family, you might still be able try IVF, or if this is not possible, you could consider surrogacy or adoption.
What can we do?
The menopause is a normal stage of life, and even though we don’t know exactly when it will happen, we need to be prepared. Going through the menopause at the age of 40 or earlier is a scary and often devastating prospect for women who shouldn’t feel like they have to go through it on their own.
The key to being able to deal with the menopause, and to being able to support women who are going through it is understanding. Understanding is achieved through raising awareness.
Raising awareness about the menopause among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.
If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org