At some point, usually around the age of 50, your ovaries produce less hormones, your periods end and you are in menopause. For some people, menopause may occur before that. A 2013 study published in Annals of research in medical and health sciences. He discovered that about 1% of women experience early menopause, and there is not much awareness of it. Women who have gone through premature menopause tell Bustle that it can be a very emotional and complex experience. Can also be intertwined with medical problems and concerns about femininity and sexuality.
Dr. Felice Gersh M.D., an obstetrician / gynecologist, tells Bustle that premature menopause can occur as a result of chemotherapy, hysterectomy and other medical treatments. It can also have a genetic component; If your mom went through early menopause, it is more likely that you will too. (According to the Office of Women’s Health, premature menopause is technically when you go through it before age 40; early menopause refers to passing between 40 and 45, but sometimes they are used interchangeably.) It is also more common in people with high levels of stress and those who work at night shifts, although research has not discovered why this could be.
For Wendy, 38, premature menopause occurred as a result of cancer treatment. “I was 36 when I was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer that is very aggressive,” he tells Bustle. “When I underwent chemotherapy, the process of early menopause began. My periods are over and I haven’t had one since.”
Stacey, 37, tells a similar story. “I was diagnosed with stage 3 hormone receptor breast cancer, both ER / PR, two weeks before I turned 36, and they put me in forced menopause when I started [chemotherapy drug] Taxol in April 2018, “he says. Some types of chemotherapy can cause lasting damage to the ovaries because they can kill ovarian cells and cause menopause.
Not surprisingly, for people who have had it, adapting to early menopause can be difficult. “The medical impact of the loss of ovarian hormone production that occurs with menopause is huge and widespread throughout the body,” Dr. Gersh tells Bustle. Menopause causes estrogen drops that then affect your mood, bones, immune system, heart health and other aspects of your body.
The symptoms of premature menopause are no different from the typical onset menopause. “I suffered terrible hot flashes, mood swings, loss of libido and dryness of the vagina,” says Wendy. Stacey says he experiences up to five or six hot flashes a day, sudden mood swings and problems with sexual lubrication. “Vaginal dryness is no joke,” he tells Bustle. “With the help of my obstetrician / gynecologist, I can finally return to the game; he prescribed me lidocaine, and that’s a lifesaver.”
The emotion that invades me is something I have no control over
In addition to dealing with the symptoms of menopause, going through young menopause can also be an emotional process. Wendy tells Bustle that her oncology and gynecology treatment teams told her different things about whether she was really entering menopause, which, according to her, was frustrating.
Early menopause also brings its own type of pain. Stacey says that while her own symptoms have not been difficult, the emotional attack, enhanced by menopause mood swings, has been difficult. “Sometimes it’s very frustrating because the emotion that invades me is something I have no control over,” he tells Bustle. “Over time I have improved in recognizing it and not allowing it to take over.”
It can also mean crying lost opportunities. “I feel that having been diagnosed with breast cancer has taken a lot of things from me,” says Wendy. “First, he took my chest, then my ability to have children, then got into my sexuality and femininity as I venture into this early chasm of menopause.” A 2016 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found a link between early menopause and symptoms of depression later in life, although the study does not identify whether that risk is due to changes in hormones, the emotional effects of early menopause or both.
Early and premature menopause should be less taboo, women who have passed it tell Bustle. If you are going through premature menopause, check out the Early Menopause and The Daisy Network support networks for resources and help. “There needs to be more awareness on this issue,” says Wendy, “so that women can know what to expect and know that they are not alone.”
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Dr. Felice Gersh M.D., obstetrician / gynecologist