There’s one fact that we cannot overstate: Everyone’s evolution is unique. Some may have sweltering hot flashes before the age of 50 while others may be subject to jolting mood swings beyond age 50. Whatever your evolution looks like, come as you are. We’re here to provide all the women’s health intel we can to support you in The Big Change. Read on for the signs of early menopause.
What Is Early Menopause and Why Does It Happen?
There’s premature menopause and then there’s early menopause. Premature menopause happens before age 40. Early menopause has an onset before 45. The majority of women experience menopause between 45 and 55, with the average age of onset being 51. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), 5% of women experience early menopause and 1% of women experience premature menopause. Everyone is different, some women may experience a natural menopause transition or the onset of menopause may be the result of procedures that impact the ovaries or stop hormone production like a hysterectomy, breast cancer treatment, or chemotherapy.
Genetics are a good indicator of what is to come in your menopausal journey. It is believed that you inherit the age of your menopause onset, meaning if your mother entered early menopause between the ages of 40 and 45, you likely will too. While genes can tell you more about what to expect during your evolution, they aren’t the full story. Lifestyle can also trigger early menopause. Smoking cigarettes can deplete estrogen levels, thus bringing on menopause earlier than expected. Studies also show that a vegetarian diet, low BMI, and lack of sun exposure throughout your life can lead to early menopause. There are pre-existing conditions that may influence early menopause. Epilepsy, chromosomal defects, and autoimmune diseases all present increased risk for early menopause.
What Are the Symptoms of Early Menopause?
Experiencing perimenopause prior to age 45 is a sign of early menopause and will present as menopausal symptoms setting in, including hot flashes, mood changes, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, night sweats, and difficulties sleeping. You also may see a decrease in your sex drive, due to the vaginal dryness and the stress associated with entering menopause earlier than expected.
What Are the Stages of Early Menopause?
Menopause is the natural evolution that occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs, thus resulting in low estrogen levels. These lowered levels of estrogen trigger a series of bodily responses, which are commonly known as menopausal symptoms. You will know you’re in menopause when you don’t have a period for 12 months straight.
Regardless if you enter menopause early or not, the first stage you will enter is perimenopause. Perimenopause is the early stage menopause and is when you’ll start feeling symptoms like irregular periods, heat flashes, mood swings, and night sweats. The term perimenopause literally means around menopause. You’ll notice your period becomes irregular and once it starts to taper off, you’ll know you’ve hit the menopause stage.
Menopause is that 12 month period (no pun intended) without a menstrual cycle. This may be a time when you feel menopausal concerns at a heightened rate. Get tailored education and recommendations by taking Kindra's hormonal assessment.
What If You're Experiencing Premature Menopause?
If you're experiencing menopausal symptoms prior to age 40, you're experiencing premature menopause. While this isn't clinically termed as early menopause, it is an earlier experience of menopause. This experience can be caused by premature ovarian failure, also known as ovarian insufficiency (terrible name, we know). If you experience your ovarian failure before the age of 40, you'll likely begin to transition into menopause. If this sounds like you, be sure to consult with your health care provider for further support.
Early Menopause Treatment Options
There's a range of supports available for early menopause concerns, from medical treatments to natural offerings. If your first stop is your healthcare provider, your doctor is likely to review your family history and run blood tests on your hormone levels to measure your follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH). Increased FSH levels are a clear indicator of menopause - so if you haven't made it a full 12 months without a menstrual period, that may be of interest to you. If you've been without a menstrual period for over 12 months, your health care provider may suggest hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Hormone therapy isn't an option for everyone though, so read on if you're interested in holistic treatment options for these pesky hormonal changes.
We have a wide range of offerings that tackle everything from vaginal dryness to menopause-induced insomnia. Acupuncture has a proven track record of making menopausal symptoms a bit more manageable. A balanced, healthy diet is key and getting regular exercise is just as important. Not only can diet and exercise help weather menopausal changes and avoid unnecessary weight gain, it also serves as excellent prevention for other medical conditions that are typically associated with the midlife evolution like heart disease and diabetes.
Minimizing your intake of caffeine and spicy food can help ease the frequency of hot flashes while yoga, meditation, and even psychotherapy may prove helpful for those mood changes.
You're Never Alone
Menopause at any time, but especially when it arrives earlier than expected can be stressful. We’re here for you. We built a Facebook group full of kindred spirits. We tackle everything from how to enjoy intimacy in later life to remedies for hot flashes. Community is everything and we'd love to call you into our crew. Join us here.
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