18th October is World Menopause Day. We wanted to use this as an opportunity to address the topic of early menopause and answer some important questions on this important, but little-discussed subject. The average age for women in the UK to reach normal menopause is 51. However, 1 in 100 women will start experiencing symptoms of early menopause before they reach their mid-40s. For women in their 20s and 30s, it can come as a real shock and understandably be a real cause of worry if they previously had plans to conceive in the future.
So, what causes early menopause?
According to the NHS, ‘early menopause can happen naturally if a woman's ovaries stop making normal levels of certain hormones, particularly the hormone oestrogen. This is sometimes called premature ovarian failure, or primary ovarian insufficiency.’ The cause of this isn’t always known, although sometimes there can be a genetic link if a family member has been through very early menopause.
If you have a family member who has been through premature menopause and you have any concerns about your own future menopause, please don’t hesitate to discuss this with your GP.
What are the symptoms of early menopause?
The symptoms of early menopause are the same as normal menopause. This can include:
- Periods becoming infrequent or stopping
- Hot flushes
- Trouble sleeping. You may find you wake up feeling hot and sweaty during the night.
- Anxiety or generally feeling low
- Vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful sex
Testing for early menopause
If your GP suspects you may be experiencing symptoms of early menopause, they’ll organise a blood test to check your hormone levels. These blood test results, combined with the description you’ve provided of your symptoms will be enough for your GP to give you a diagnosis.
Early menopause treatment
According to the NHS, the main treatment plans your GP may discuss with you are taking the combined contraceptive pill (this contains artificial oestrogen) or HRT (hormone replacement therapy). There are different types of HRT and different ways of taking it. Your GP will be able to discuss this further with you. In addition to medication, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to ensure you stay as comfortable as possible.
Support for women going through early menopause
Going through menopause can be a difficult time for any woman, but going through early menopause has its own unique set of challenges. This is why it’s essential you have access to the right support at an early stage. The Daisy Network is a charity dedicated to providing information and support to women diagnosed with premature menopause. Visit their website to find out more.