Menopause is a natural phase of womanhood. But unlike other stages, like a woman’s first period, it often doesn’t come suddenly. There are signs—hot flashes, mood swings—that hint that it’s about to happen soon. But did you know certain things put you at risk for entering this phase early? Normally, menopause happens when a woman is between the ages of 41 and 55. But this cycle can be interrupted, causing it to happen earlier than nature intended.
The American Pregnancy Association has found that 1 in 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 29 and 1 in 100 women aged 30 to 39 go through menopause early.
What are the symptoms of early menopause? They’re pretty much the same as those experienced during late menopause. They include:
- irregular cycle or missed periods
- flow that’s lighter or heavier than normal
- hot flashes
- dryness of vagina, skin, eyes, or mouth
- mood swings, emotional changes
- poor bladder control
- decreased or non-existent libido
Going into early menopause doesn’t only hinder your plans of having another baby, it also puts you at greater risk for osteoporosis, ovarian/colon cancer, cataracts and gum problems, due to the decrease of the hormone estrogen.
Here are eight things that can cause a woman to go into early menopause.
Studies have found that women who smoke go into menopause one to two years earlier than those who don’t. Researchers found that toxins found in tobacco and cigarettes tend to hinder the function of reproductive hormones, like estrogen.
Medications that control or reduce estrogen, like Tamoxifen, can contribute to early menopause. This medication is meant to prevent those with breast cancer.
History of epilepsy
For women diagnosed with epilepsy, it’s expected that it may affect their age of menopause. Studies have found that early menopause is more common in those with catamenial epilepsy (seizures that are triggered by the menstrual cycle) or high seizure incidence. These findings have been linked to seizures’ effects on the brain’s hypothalamus or pituitary gland, but more data is needed to fully support this.
Women with thyroid problems suffer from hormonal imbalances: they’re either too high or too low. Naturally, they are at risk for early onset menopause. In fact, hypothyroidism’s symptoms mimic that of menopause—hot flashes, mood swings, irregular menses, etc.
Thyroid treatment has also been found to delay menopause.
If you’ve undergone surgeries, like having an ovary removed (single oophorectomy) or uterus removal (hysterectomy), your body tends to have less estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to premature menopause. However, if you have both ovaries removed, it results in instant menopause.
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause damage to your ovary and its tissues, putting you at greater risk for early menopause.
Premature menopause is more likely in those born with chromosomal defects that affect reproductive function, like Turner syndrome, which results in poorly developed ovaries.
When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system is confused, attacking your own body in an effort to control the disease. In some cases, like rheumatoid arthritis, it can even target ovaries and its tissues, leading to early menopause.
How can it be prevented?
Though some cases of premature menopause can’t be prevented, here are some measures you can take if you suspect you are at risk:
- Stop smoking.
- Get regular exercise
- Fight obesity
- Use hormone-free, organic skin care products
- Eat organic, healthy food
- Avoid processed foods
We hope you found this information useful! Are you at risk or have you experienced early menopause? Share your story with us in the comments below.
sources: Healthline, American Pregnancy Association, BBC Health, Epilepsy.com