I have always been led to believe, both academically and socially that menopause is a natural phenomenon undergone by women in their late forties and fifties. I was also aware of the physical and mental changes accompanying menopause, following my conversation with women who have experienced it. But it came as a blow when I read an article on Early Menopause that said that menopause could occur even before 40 – in 20’s, 30’s and even in teens. Suddenly, the years that had seemed so far away were in my proximity. Menopause was not anymore something that pronounced women’s aging existence on Earth, it was something that could shatter a woman’s dream of motherhood.
This thought provoked me to know more about Early Menopause. I share through this article what I learnt about this medical condition, with my fellow women.
First things first… let’s clear the confusion between early menopause and premature menopause. Though both these conditions basically imply menopause before the normal age (normal age being between late 40s and early 50s), doctors diagnose and put a name to it depending on the age at which menopause occurs. If one undergoes menopause before 45, medically it is Early Menopause; if menopause sets in before 40 years of age, it is Premature Menopause. Premature Menopause is sometimes used interchangeably with Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), a condition where ovaries cease normal functioning before 40 years. However; there lies a difference between both these conditions. In premature menopause there is a total cessation of menstrual flow whereas women with POF may experience irregular periods for years, and even have a possibility of getting pregnant.
What Causes Early Menopause
Onset of Early Menopause may be attributed to:
- Surgical removal of ovaries
- Damage caused to ovaries following cancer treatments
- Early menopause in family history
- Ovarian failure at an early age affecting production of normal hormones
Early Menopause Symptoms
Symptoms of early menopause are similar to that of natural menopause, however, the symptoms may differ in severity in younger women. An early onset of menopause is symptomized by
- Irregularity in menstrual cycle
- Dryness of vagina
- Reduced sexual desire
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Itching sensation of the skin
- Increase in weight
- Difficulty in bladder control
- Headaches and dizziness
- Irritability and mood changes
- Increased hair fall
- Dryness of mouth
- Feelings of fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
Risk Factors Associated with Early Menopause
Since hormonal deficiency occurs at a very early age, the risk of contracting cardiac diseases and osteoporosis is very high when compared to women undergoing normal menopause. Professional guidance is essential to cope up physically and emotionally.
Hormone Replacement Therapy for Early Menopause
HRT is effective in reducing many of the symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flashes and dryness of vagina. However; pros and cons of HRT need to be discussed with your doctor before deciding on the Therapy. Family history of breast cancer, blood clots or hormone-dependent cancers needs to be disclosed to the doctor so that he/she can decide the safest treatment for the menopausal symptoms. HRT is not prescribed as treatment for menopausal symptoms caused due to chemotherapy or surgeries to treat hormone-dependent cancers. In such cases, non-hormonal medications can be used to reduce menopausal symptoms. Consult with your doctor for medication that is right for you.
Managing Menopausal Symptoms Naturally
Women suffering from menopausal symptoms can choose natural remedies to exert control. Natural therapies can be effective provided you are seeking the guidance of an authentic naturopath. Naturopathy for menopausal symptoms can be taken along side HRT, which is to mean that, one can use natural therapies to control some menopausal symptoms and turn to HRT for others simultaneously. However; such mode of treatment demands utmost precaution. The naturopath as well as the doctor needs to be informed on the type of medicines being prescribed in order to avoid side-effects and clashes of medication.
Medical evidence regarding the effectiveness of natural modes of treatment for menopause in women with a history of hormone-dependent cancers and breast cancer is not clear. Consultation with cancer specialists prior to choosing natural treatment is paramount. Naturopaths should be informed of family medical history so that they can prescribe the safest treatment.
Changes in Lifestyle
Menopausal symptoms can be reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Modifications in food habits, drinking habits, fitness patterns, and maintaining a positive attitude can help one manage menopause with strength. A few recommended changes:
- Vitamins including A, B, C, D, E, and minerals such as magnesium, boron, iodine and potassium help women control menopausal symptoms such as dryness of vagina and hot flashes, and help combat menopausal consequences such as cardiac disorders and osteoporosis. Turn to a healthy food diet that includes fresh vegetables & fruits; food products such as tofu, soy beans and legumes, which provide human body with natural oestrogen; and low-fat and calcium-rich diary edibles
- Increase fluid intake; decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Exercise as regularly as possible. Physical activity is essential for a healthy heart and imparts a general sense of well-being
- Give up smoking
- Regular medical check up for cervical cancer and breast cancer is highly recommended
There are many informative articles on the Web on early menopause, some by women who are facing the medical condition themselves. Many such articles are inspirational, providing necessary tips and strategies that can help in coping with the Condition.