I'm worried that I might have premature menopause. How early can it happen? Is there any treatment?
The average age of the last menstrual period (menopause) for US women is 51. Menopause occurs when the ovary no longer releases eggs or makes significant amounts of the hormone estrogen. By definition, premature menopause is when menopause occurs before age 40. Another name for premature menopause is premature ovarian failure—or POF.
POF is more common when there is a family history of early menopause, when a woman has autoimmune conditions herself or in her family, in certain chromosomal conditions, or if she has had radiation to the pelvis or chemotherapy. Many cases of POF are unexplained and unexpected.
Just as in regular menopause, the first signs of POF may be hot flashes around the menstrual period, irregular periods, or skipped periods. Women on birth control pills may not realize they are in premature menopause because the pills effectively replace their missing hormones. Some women find out they are approaching menopause during a fertility workup, when they are found to have "decreased ovarian reserve."
The treatment for POF depends on your desires. Women who want to get pregnant should seek consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist. Assisted reproductive technologies, often with a donor egg, can help a woman with POF achieve pregnancy and motherhood. Symptoms of POF like hot flashes and vaginal dryness for sex can be improved with hormonal or non-hormonal treatments.
Talk to your OB/GYN or a reproductive endocrinologist to get more specific recommendations. Good luck!