Premature vs. early menopause: What all women need to know

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Can you really go into menopause as early as your 20s? Find out more here.

While most women will experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, some will experience it early. There are those who experience it in their 20s or 30s.

If you're under the age of 45 and have missed your period of over three months and you're not pregnant, then it would be best to look into the possibility of early menopause.

Over time, as women age, their bodies produce less and less hormones needed for female reproduction, specifically estrogen and progesterone. Once it reaches a particularly low level, then menopause begins.

Early vs. Premature Menopause: What's the difference?

If a woman experiences menopause between the ages of 40 and 45 then it's classified as early menopause. While premature menopause starts earlier than that, typically before the age of 40. Premature menopause is now being referred to as premature ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency.

Premature menopause is rare and it only occurs  in about one percent of women who experience menopause before the age of 40.

What are the symptoms of early menopause?

  • amnorrhea (irregular periods)
  • hot flashes
  • night sweating
  • dryness of the vagina
  • erratic moods
  • confusion or mental fogginess
  • decreased libido

If you've missed your period for two to three months, this doesn't always mean you're pregnant or going through menopause prematurely, it could just be a response to stress, illness, low estrogen levels, or changes in diet or exercise.

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What causes early menopause?

Aging (over the age of 35), family history, genetic disorders (like Turner syndrome), toxins (chemotherapy or radiation), and ovarian surgery can result in follicle depletion or follicle dysfunction. When this happens, a woman's egg cells don't mature, stopping ovulation as well as the menstrual cycle.

What are the complications of early and premature menopause?

Women who go through menopause early are more at risk of developing the following conditions:

  • Infertilty
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bone loss and damage (osteoporosis)

How can early or premature menopause be treated?

Depending on the severity of your case, your doctor can recommend the following measures to manage the symptoms.

Hormone-Replacement Therapy

With the use of supplemental reproductive hormones, this treatment hopes to restore the normal level of estrogen and progestin, which can no longer be naturally be produced by your body.

However, this treatment can increase the risk of heart problems, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, so it cannot be prescribed to those who are prone to developing these conditions.

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements

Between the ages of 19 and 50, women should be getting about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Over the age of 50, this requirement increases to 1,200 milligrams. As for vitamin D requirements, it ranges from 600 to 800 iu per day.

An intake of calcium and vitamin D supplements helps prevent the risk of osteoporosis in those experiencing early menopause.

Dealing with Infertility

Though challenging, women going through premature menopause can still get pregnant. But if it's no longer possible, they still have the option of exploring in vitro fertilization or adoption.

sources: Healthline, Self.com, Medicinet.com

READ: Study finds that early menopause might be linked to type 2 diabetes

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