Most women dread menopause because of the years of hormone fluctuations and uncomfortable symptoms that accompany that period. In most cases, menopause doesn't start until around 50, but it can vary a few years either way.
But what happens when menopause begins in your 30s? Unfortunately, some women enter this stage of life earlier than others, but why?
The New England Women's Healthcare team are experts in the female body and reproductive system. Our team comprises eight OB/GYN specialists who provide diagnostic testing and treatment for menopause and women experiencing premature or early menopause.
What is early menopause?
Early menopause is when a woman goes 12 consecutive months without a period at age 45 or younger instead of about 50. Premature menopause describes this scenario but under age 40.
It's important to understand that menopause is the time in a woman's life when she can no longer get pregnant or carry a baby. It's the end of the menstrual cycle due to extreme variations in hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
Causes of early menopause
Many factors influence your chances of developing early or premature menopause, including health conditions outside the reproductive system. Essentially, anything that causes damage to the ovaries or halts estrogen production can lead to early menopause.
Unfortunately, there are many reasons for a severe reduction in estrogen and early menopause. They include:
- Certain cancer treatments
- Having your first period before age 11
- Removal of the ovaries or having a hysterectomy
- Family history of early menopause
- Smoking cigarettes
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain chromosomal abnormalities
- Severe infections
- HIV or AIDS
It's essential to understand what's causing your body to go into early menopause because it can dictate how we treat the problem. At your appointment with our team, disclose any information regarding your current health status and any underlying medical issues.
Signs of early menopause
Irregularity in your menstrual cycles may be one of the first signs of early or premature menopause. Your periods may become shorter or longer than usual, or you could experience spotting in between cycles.
However, changes in your period aren't the only symptoms related to early menopause. Other signs that your estrogen levels are changing include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased sex drive
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Breast tenderness
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
Difficulty concentrating and weight gain are other signs of early menopause. You may also notice hair thinning, dry skin, dry eyes, and a dry mouth as menopause creeps up.
What's the next step?
If you're in your late 30s or early 40s and are experiencing signs of premature or early menopause, the first step is to seek treatment from our team. It's important to tell us about your symptoms and any other medical issues you're dealing with.
To diagnose early or premature menopause, our team evaluates your overall health, discusses your family history, and performs a physical exam. They also order blood tests to check hormone levels that may be fluctuating in preparation for menopause.
Your menstrual cycle is the best determinant of changes in your body, so we carefully evaluate your historical menstrual cycles and any changes you've noticed in the length, frequency, or flow.
Even though early menopause isn't ideal, we can treat it through hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It works by replacing estrogen and progesterone to restore your body's hormone levels and decrease symptoms related to menopause.
If you're dealing with menopause symptoms, call us today or request an appointment online at one of our convenient offices in Wilmington and Woburn, Massachusetts.