I’ve heard of and met with a few cases of premature menopause in the hospital. More often than not, women who face this ordeal were shocked and surprised that such an occurrence could exist.
So I’m dedicating this article for you, who may be worried of this peculiarly early menopause. Let’s uncover the mystery behind it together. Lisa and Shalini were worried and interested in this topic, too.
What is Early Menopause?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines menopause as an absence of period for 12 months, usually occurring in women in their late 40s or 50s. Menopause happens when a woman stops ovulating (the process of producing ovum).
Premature menopause happens when a woman doesn’t experience menstrual cycles for more than 12 months at the age of below 40.
Biochemically, this is caused by the increase of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and the decrease of oestrogen. Sometimes, premature menopause can happen to women in their late 20s or early 30s.
Premature menopause cannot be diagnosed immediately or predicted. However, there are some signs that signals the process of menopause.
- Pre-menopause: Reproduction system begins to move slower, periods become irregular. Can start up to 10 years before menopause.
- Menopause: The stage where ovulation and menstrual cycle stops
- Post-menopause: The final stage of a woman’s reproductive system, where ovulation and menstrual cycles are no longer active.
“So why do premature menopauses happen?”
6 Factors That Can Lead to Premature Menopause
My mum had her menopause when she was 52, which is a generally normal age.
“Women nowadays are less healthy than we were back then, must be the food you eat these days!”
Did you know that women in the past had menopause at an older age compared to women today? We seldom relate food intake to our reproductive system, but they are actually intertwined.
Fast foods and high-calorie meals and desserts have become a norm, with less-nutritious processed foods also taking a toll on our bodies. Many of us are unaware that food intake can in fact affect our reproductive health. Diets rich in vegetables have been found to be effective in preventing early menopause.
2. Social factors
Women’s reproductive and menstrual health are highly dependant on healthy hormone levels. Social and emotional factors can make huge waves of unstable emotions for women, affecting hormone levels.
Emotional instability and stress can lead to premature menopause, as these problems do not only affect your mental health, but also your physical health in the long run.
As a nurse, I’m also always busy with my time spent on taking care of patients, but I do need to take time for myself, too - balance is key!
3. Genetical Inheritance
Hormonal changes and differences can be inherited from parents. If your mother experienced an early menopause, chances are you may follow suit, too.
Other hormonal signs like irregular menstrual cycle or late menstrual periods can also be genetically inherited. This is by no means an inherited “disease”, but just a genetic difference inherited from our parents.
4. Effects from Radiation
Prolonged exposure to radiation can be dangerous and harmful to both our mental and physical health. It is common for women who have gone through chemotherapy in killing cancer cells as a part of cancer treatment to experience premature menopause, as the radiation can damage ovarian tissues.
Besides, the heat emitted from radiation can also affect our body system and hormonal levels, affecting the menopausal stage.
Did you know that smoking can also be a deterrent in your reproductive health? Studies have found that tobacco toxins can cause early or premature menopause by reducing the circulation of oestrogen in our body.
According to a research done by the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, there is a 26% greater risk for women who have smoked 100 cigarettes or more in their lives to experience early menopause, and 45% of women who grew up or lived with a smoker in the house went through menopause before the age of 50.
Being overweight can also affect fertility and reproductive health for a woman. The accumulation of fats as a result of being overweight or obese can affect the release of oestrogen. Oestrogen get stuck under the layers of fats and leads to premature menopause gradually.
Menopause can be a difficult stage to face as a woman. Personally, I would feel like something “feminine” in me is gone, but nevertheless, we all need to continue our lives as usual.
If you have any stories to share or questions to ask, have a chat with me in the comments section below!
Feminine care is a very delicate issue, see here for the 6 Feminine Care Mistakes You Have Been Making.
Juliet’s Reminder: More recent research have also found that women who have no children may have a higher chance of early menopause, because of the more frequent ovulations compared to women who stop ovulating temporarily during pregnancy. Although this shouldn't be a major factor in your family planning, you may want to consider it!