Early menopause is defined as menopause that occurs before age 40. It affects between 1% and 3% of women. It can occur naturally and is called premature ovarian failure (POF), or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). It can also be due to medical interventions such as hysterectomy, radiotherapy, hormone treatment for cancer or gender realignment.
Because of the important role that the reproductive hormone oestrogen has on many physical functions, early menopause and the associated reduction in oestrogen can give rise to the risk of health implications such heart disease, porous bones (osteoporosis), diabetes and dementia.
For some women, early menopause brings with it the shock and sadness of being unable to have children or more children.
Lesley Fettes told her story of early menopause on the Hot Women Rock Radio Show. She had her son when she was age 34. Her new baby was a poor sleeper and this affected Lesley’s sleep. In addition, she was picking up infections, had shingles, and was having problems shifting her ‘baby weight’. After 18 months she was back at work and not feeling well. The two things that finally sent Lesley to her doctor for help were severe night sweats and brain fog.
“Concentration was a big issue. At work people would be talking to me and their words would just wash over me. I said to my husband, ‘I need to go to the doctor’s. I just don’t feel right. He agreed with me. He could see I wasn’t right.”
Lesley went to see her doctor with her list of symptoms and joked, ‘Maybe I’m going through menopause’. Following blood tests, she was referred to a consultant. On her thirty-sixth birthday, Lesley went with her husband to see the consultant and the diagnosis of early menopause was confirmed.
“It was heart-breaking. I was in floods of tears. We had never decided to have a big family but now there was no choice.”
The consultant advised Lesley to start taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and, after doing some research and weighing up the risks and benefits, she decided to go ahead. For the first year the HRT improved her symptoms but she still didn’t feel completely well. Fortunately, she saw a different consultant who understood what she was experiencing and prescribed a different formulation of HRT which worked really well.
“After two weeks I was like OMG! This is amazing. I feel normal again. My irritability had dropped, my sleep had improved and my hot flushes had disappeared. I still have all the symptoms but they are so much less and easier to manage now.”
Lesley also sought help from her personal trainer. She made changes to her diet and started taking regular exercise. Her favourite exercise is with kettle bells and she has now trained as an instructor. She lost two and a half stone in weight and dropped 3 dress sizes. She went on to take part in a Spartan Race to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.
“I’m fitter now in my forties than I was in my twenties. I feel like I have made menopause into a positive. I have a healthy lifestyle and have made myself stronger. I understand more about my own body. I wish I’d had this knowledge in my twenties.”
Top Tips for Getting Treatment for Menopause
1 Be prepared to advocate for the treatment you need. Stand up for what is right for you. You may be feeling tired and unwell but you need to be able to be assertive.
2 Do your research. Knowledge is power. Know what your options are, the risks and benefits and the approach you prefer.
3 Make a list of questions that you want to ask the doctor or consultant. It’s frustrating to leave the doctor’s office and then remember what you wanted to ask.
4 Take a supportive partner or friend with you to the doctor’s appointment in case you get overwhelmed.
5 If the first treatment you are given doesn’t work, go back and keep going back until you get what you need and you feel better.
If you need help with your menopause or understanding more about menopause contact me today.
Lesley’s Facebook Group is Healthy & Happy Hormones.