UPDATED June 2nd, 2018
Yes, it does exist and if you think you’re experiencing early menopause symptoms, you should definitely see your doctor. However, like all things regarding our lady parts, it can be complicated. First, there isn’t just one menopause. You are considered to be in menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. Premature menopause is when your last period occurs before the age of 40 and it only happen spontaneously to about 1% of women. Most premature menopause is caused by removing your ovaries or from chemotherapy or radiation treatment. If you have your last period before the age of 45, you are in early menopause and this only affects about 8% of women spontaneously.
Perimenopause is the period before menopause and this can start as early as your thirties. And really, if pre- to post-menopause takes up 20 years of your life, it makes it seem a lot less like a life stage and more like plain old life. So we should all try to remove the stigma that makes women dread it so much.
Premature and early menopause symptoms are just like menopause symptoms: irregular periods, hot flashes, dry skin (inside and out), mood swings and decreased sex drive. However, these symptoms can also indicate other conditions like lupus or Graves’ disease so if you’re having them before 40, it’s important to see your doctor so you can rule out diseases or thyroid imbalances.
Read Related: Premature Menopause: Symptoms & Reasons
In addition to cancer treatments, research has shown that other chemicals in our environment may trigger early menopause. A recent study at Washington University School of Medicine found that, “Women whose bodies have high levels of chemicals found in plastics, personal-care products, common household items and the environment experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of these chemicals.” The good news is that many of these chemicals are banned in the U.S. The bad news is that they are still pervasive in soil and water. It’s a good idea for women to follow the study’s advice about how to minimize exposure.
If you are experiencing early onset menopause, or even plain old menopause, it’s important to remember that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and you are no a less a woman than you have been your entire adult life. We all have to face it sooner or later and it’s never easy but there are ways to make it less traumatic. Some hormone treatments, dietary changes and natural remedies can minimize your discomfort. Because of its effect on fertility, early menopause is especially tough for women so a local support group or an online resource like EarlyMenopause.com can be extremely comforting and helpful.