Early Menopause: 5 Reasons You Might Go Through It Before You Hit 40
Early menopause and premature ovarian failure
Firstly, we’re not big fans of the word ‘failure’ here - any medical scientists out there feel like changing the name to something a bit less accusatory? For now though I guess we’ll just shorten it to POF.
POF, or the loss or dysfunction of eggs before the age of 40, can be triggered by a huge range of conditions, including diabetes, anemia, thyroid dysfunction, viral infections like mumps, lupus, vitiligo, and many other genetic or hormonal conditions. POF and premature menopause aren’t the same thing - some women with POF may still have irregular or occasional periods, and might even be able to become pregnant. But if POF is more substantial, it can lead to full premature menopause, which results in amenorrhea (stopping of periods) and infertility.
Early menopause and low bodyweight
The more fat is present in the body, the more oestrogen is produced. So sometimes if your bodyweight drops into the ‘underweight’ category, oestrogen levels can fall dangerously low, eventually resulting in the shutdown of the ovaries and onset of early menopause. This is often seen in people with severe eating disorders, or who are underweight due to other illnesses.
Hysterectomy and surgical menopause
If you’re diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer or another serious gynaecological condition, part of your treatment may include a hysterectomy (removal of the womb), and may also involve removal of the ovaries. This procedure means you will no longer have periods, and you will go through the menopause - regardless of how old or young you are.
Cancer treatment and medical menopause
Some medications used during chemotherapy can cause damage to the ovaries, which results in the onset of menopause. In many people this is permanent, but in some cases (especially in younger women) this can be a temporary menopause and some function may return to the ovaries in time. There are also some cancer drugs that act by temporarily shutting down the ovaries to reduce oestrogen levels in the body, which may also cause a temporary or permanent menopause.
Radiotherapy to the lower part of the abdomen can also cause irreversible damage to the ovaries and womb, causing the menopause in people of any age.
Gender transition and hormone therapy related menopause
Another group of people who may go through a menopause-like state (though not necessarily an irreversible one) are transgender men. One of the first steps in transitioning from female to male involves taking testosterone, which lowers the production of oestrogen in the body and triggers menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood swings. If a transgender man chooses to undergo a hysterectomy or oophectomy, he will also undergo full menopause.
Transgender women who take oestrogen may also experience a menopause-like state if they stop taking their hormones, and may experience hot flashes, mood swings and other hormonal side effects.
If you’re going through any of the above, we might have a ‘lifesaver’ product that could help with your menopause symptoms. Check out the PauseWell store to shop by symptom categories and find some relief from the menopause madness.
- Live Better With Menopause Team