What Happened to My Estrogen? Causes of Early Menopause
You’re feeling fine and living your life. Inside, you still feel like an insecure teenager but on the outside, there’s the stray grey hair and maybe…was that a hot flash? You start to feel different and notice your period isn’t happening as often. It doesn’t even dawn on you that it could be early menopause. For most women at the age of 35-45, they may feel like they’re just hitting their stride. The awkwardness of youth is over and you know who you are–rejoice! But what’s this? No period? It can’t be menopause ALREADY.
Unfortunately, yes, it can.
While it’s a small percentage of the population, early menopause can happen for a number of reasons. For some, it could simply be genetic. For others, it could be the result of more drastic causes such as radiation, chemotherapy or a full hysterectomy.
What are signs of early menopause?
Irregular periods, night sweats, hot flashes and vaginal dryness or atrophy are just a few of the signs that you may be experiencing early menopause. You may also have mood swings and feel unlike your usual self. All of the typical symptoms that occur with regular menopause may be present, just at a much earlier age: between 35-45.
What are some reasons for early menopause?
Chemotherapy and radiation
While chemotherapy and radiation doesn’t guarantee damage to your ovaries, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it. Depending on your age, damage may be more or less likely. It can also depend on the strength of the therapy you’re given.
Full hysterectomy with ovaries removed
When the ovaries are removed, they can no longer produce estrogen, sending your body into early menopause. Many women are receiving hysterectomies for a number of reasons including cancer risk, fibroids or prolapse. Many women with endometriosis have had full hysterectomies, despite the fact that the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does not list hysterectomy as a treatment.
If you remember that phase during junior high when your mother was randomly drenched in sweat or crying at a Folgers coffee commercial, she may have gone through early menopause. It might help to give mom a call to find out.
My doctor didn’t tell me…
Yes, it’s unfortunate but true. Some women who undergo a full hysterectomy or are receiving pelvic radiation or chemotherapy don’t know they will go into early menopause. A doctor might just be focused on treating a cancer or other threatening condition but even so, this is another situation to be your own health advocate. If you are even remotely concerned that a treatment you are receiving might trigger early menopause, it can’t hurt to ask.
If you’re already experiencing symptoms of early menopause, it’s still important to talk with your doctor about it. While discussing vaginal dryness and mood swings might seem less important than a cancer diagnosis, it contributes to your overall quality of life. A withering sex life and mood swings can have a dramatic affect on your intimate AND platonic relationships. What’s more, there are options that can help whether they be holistic or traditional.
Whether you’re concerned you may be going through early menopause or are wondering if it’s a possibility, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the road! There are many options to help ease you through this transition. It all starts with a conversation and a little awareness. We know you can handle it!