Early (premature) menopause
Menopause in women younger than 40 years of age is called premature menopause. If this happens spontaneously it is called premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure affects about 1 in 100 women. Around 8 per 100 women have premature menopause due to other causes such as chemotherapy or surgery. Menopause occurring between 40-45 years of age is called early menopause, affecting approximately 5% of women.
When a woman experiences menopause, she no longer has follicles to produce into eggs and therefore no longer gets her menstrual period.
A woman with premature menopause may still have follicles, but there may be a depletion or dysfunction of these. Therefore, she can still get her period; however, most of the time her period is irregular. Irregular periods are one of the signs for POF. Keep in mind that there may be other explanations for an irregular period. Always discuss any irregularity in your menstrual cycle with your gynecologist.
What causes early menopause?
Sometimes there is no clear reason why a woman’s ovaries stop working early (premature ovarian failure). In other cases a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the womb or uterus) or an oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovary or ovaries) can trigger an early menopause, as can certain illnesses and forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This is called secondary premature ovarian failure.
What Are The Symptoms Of Premature Menopause?
- Irregular periods (different length of bleeding or change in flow)
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Decrease in sexual drive
- Painful sex
- Thinning and drying of vagina
Some women may continue to have normal periods and show no symptoms. Diagnosis may only be discovered when the FSH levels are measured and come back with elevated levels.