Updated: Feb 18, 2022
In short: no.
Firstly there is no minimum age for experiencing menopause. Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) or Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is defined as onset of menopause below the age of 40.
This affects around 1 in 100 women so is not as uncommon as you might think.
Approximately 1 in 1000 women experience POI before the age of 30.
It occurs when the ovaries stop working properly and no longer produce any eggs. This can occur as a primary problem or secondary to other reasons or as a result of medical treatments. So having fully investigations underlying causes is important. It can often run in families. Occasionally it can be temporary. But for most it is permanent.
“Early menopause” is considered between age 40-45. It is recommended that symptoms are investigated in this age group to rule out other causes and blood tests are helpful to confirm the diagnosis.
Physical symptoms involve irregular or absent periods with or without other symptoms of oestrogen deficiency (flushes/sweats, brain fog, joint problems, low energy levels, mood disturbances, hair/skin changes, loss of libido or vulval symptoms).
1 in 4 women with POI will not experience other symptoms.
The diagnosis can have an enormous impact emotionally. It also impacts fertility. So having appropriate support and information at the time of diagnosis is hugely important. In the UK @thedaisynetwork are a registered charity helping support and inform women going through this.
Your medical team can also help. Referral to specialist fertility clinics are important to discuss family planning options. DEXA scanning to assess bone health at diagnosis is recommended.
Treatment is aimed at replacing the hormones that are not being produced by the body at least until 51 (the age of “natural menopause”). This may be with HRT or the combined oral contraceptive pill. If one type does not suit you then it is important to talk with your doctor in order to be given an alternative. Healthy Lifestyle measures and calcium+vitamin D supplements are helpful for maintaining bone health.
Talking therapies can to help deal with the complex emotions that these diagnoses may cause such as loss of hope, loss of self esteem or even guilt and fear.
Great accounts to follow for more information, support and community include:
Trust your instincts. If you think you might be affected by early menopause consider booking in to speak to a doctor to explore things.
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I have been really focussing on my “fast and slows” this weekend - and to be honest doing a lot worse than I expected!
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