Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, typically occurring around the age of 51. But for some women, this biological change begins earlier than expected — a condition known as early menopause. If you’re noticing signs of menopause at 40 or even at 35, you might be experiencing early menopause.
Early menopause can bring a cascade of questions and concerns — Is this normal? What triggers this early onset? How will it impact my health and lifestyle? This comprehensive guide aims to address all your queries, dispel myths, and equip you with practical knowledge to navigate this journey confidently.
Through this article, you’ll learn about the signs and symptoms of early menopause, its causes, health impacts, and much more. By the end, you will understand the importance of recognizing early menopause and how to manage it effectively. It’s time to unmask this lesser-known phenomenon and shed light on how you can lead a healthy, fulfilling life despite its early onset. Let’s dive in.
Understanding Early Menopause
Early menopause, also known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency, refers to the condition where a woman’s ovaries stop functioning before the age of 45. This means the woman stops having menstrual cycles and can no longer conceive naturally. The condition is different from natural menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being around 51.
Early menopause can be a result of several factors such as genetics, autoimmune diseases, or medical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The condition brings about symptoms similar to those of natural menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.
However, because it occurs at a younger age, early menopause can have significant physical and emotional impacts on a woman’s life. It’s crucial for women who suspect they’re experiencing early menopause to consult with a healthcare professional or an Ayurvedic practitioner to understand their symptoms better and manage them effectively.
The Distinction Between Early and Premature Menopause
While the terms “early menopause” and “premature menopause” are often used interchangeably, they denote different timeframes in a woman’s life. The key difference lies in the age of onset. Early menopause occurs before the age of 45 but after 40, while premature menopause happens before a woman reaches 40.
Premature menopause, on the other hand, is menopause that begins before the age of 40. Also known as premature ovarian insufficiency, this condition is not as common as early menopause, but it carries its own set of health implications.
Regardless of whether menopause occurs early or prematurely, the bodily changes remain the same. Both involve the cessation of menstruation, decreased production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, and the inability to conceive naturally.
Signs and Symptoms of Early Menopause
Early menopause often presents similar symptoms to those of natural menopause, though they may occur at an unexpectedly younger age. The very first signs of early menopause can be subtle and may include changes in menstrual patterns, such as irregular periods or unusually heavy or light bleeding. Some women might also start experiencing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, or mood swings. If you observe such changes, especially if you’re under the age of 45, it’s important to seek medical advice.
The 7 Early Signs of Menopause
- Changes in Menstrual Cycle: Irregular periods or changes in flow can be an initial sign of early menopause.
- Hot Flashes: Sudden feelings of warmth, typically over the face, neck, and chest, which can cause sweating and redness.
- Night Sweats: These are hot flashes that occur at night and can disrupt sleep.
- Vaginal Dryness: Decreased estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during sexual intercourse.
- Mood Swings: You may experience rapid mood changes, irritability, anxiety, or mild depression.
- Difficulty Sleeping: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and early-morning awakening are common.
- Decreased Libido: A reduced sexual drive is another sign of early menopause.
Causes and Triggers of Early Menopause
Early Menopause can happen naturally or it can be induced by surgery and medical treatment. In both ways, early menopause happens because ovaries cannot produce eggs anymore. This can occur due to several reasons, ranging from genetic factors to medical treatments. Here are some common causes:
- Genetics: If other women in your family, such as your mother or sisters, experienced early menopause, you might be more likely to go through it too.
- Chromosome Defects: Certain conditions, like Turner syndrome, result from a defect in a woman’s chromosomes, which can lead to early menopause.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or hypothyroidism, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, can sometimes lead to early menopause.
- Medical Treatments: Treatments like chemotherapy or pelvic radiation therapy for cancer can damage the ovaries and lead to early menopause. Surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) will also cause immediate menopause.
- Injuries and accidents of the pelvic region can damage the ovaries. In addition, pelvic health problems such as tuberculosis can cause loss of menstrual cycle due to failure of ovaries in 3% of women.
- Mumps is one of the most common infection associated with Premature Menopause.
- Chemicals in cigarette smoke are known to induce early Menopause. It can be due to primary smoking or from secondary smoking (women who are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke).
It’s crucial to remember that early menopause is a complex condition, and it can be challenging to pinpoint an exact cause. Regular check-ups and open discussions with your healthcare provider can help in managing the condition and dealing with its implications on your health.
The Role of Stress in Triggering Early Menopause
Stress, both physical and emotional, has been observed to play a role in the onset of early menopause. Chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body, including those responsible for reproductive function.
While stress doesn’t directly cause early menopause, studies have suggested a link between high-stress levels and earlier onset of menopause. Prolonged stress can lead to a variety of health issues, including disruption of the menstrual cycle. If this disruption is severe or long-lasting, it might contribute to the early onset of menopause.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, it’s important to seek help. Implementing stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, or mindfulness can play a significant role in promoting overall health and potentially mitigating the risk of early menopause.
Health Impacts and Risks of Early Menopause
The onset of menopause, whether at the average age or earlier, is a natural part of a woman’s life. However, early menopause can have some serious implications due to the premature reduction in the production of female hormones, particularly estrogen.
Estrogen plays a crucial role in many bodily functions. It protects against heart disease, supports bone health, and helps maintain skin elasticity. Early depletion of estrogen can increase the risk of certain health issues such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.
Early menopause can also impact mental health, contributing to feelings of depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem due to the premature onset of menopausal symptoms.
Health Risks of Early Menopause
While early menopause isn’t necessarily harmful in itself, it can bring certain disadvantages:
- Fertility Issues: One of the significant impacts of early menopause is the end of fertility. This can be distressing for women who planned to have children or expand their family later in life.
- Bone Health: Lower levels of estrogen can result in bone loss, leading to a higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Cardiovascular Health: Estrogen has a protective effect on the heart. Early menopause can increase the risk of heart disease.
- Mental Health: The hormonal changes associated with menopause can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. These impacts can be more significant in women experiencing early menopause.
Weight Gain and Other Health Issues Associated with Early Menopause
Weight gain is common during menopause, and early menopause is no exception. Hormonal changes can alter the way your body distributes fat, leading to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
Furthermore, women experiencing early menopause might also face an increased risk of other health issues such as vaginal dryness, urinary problems, sexual dysfunction, and sleep disturbances.
These health impacts underline the importance of professional healthcare guidance and a healthy lifestyle for women going through early menopause. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good sleep hygiene can help manage weight and support overall health.
Early Menopause in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, Menopause is the stage of transition from Pitta dominated phase of life to the Vata dominated phase. That’s why during the menopausal years, one naturally becomes prone to health symptoms related to Vata Imbalance and Pitta Imbalance.
However, during Early Menopause, a woman is rapidly and untimely exposed to the transition of dosha. This fast transition creates severe Vata Pitta Imbalance symptoms in her body and mind.
Such severe changes in her hormone levels and dosha balance poorly affect her metabolism as well. That’s why, some women may experience Kapha Imbalance symptoms such as excess weight gain, depression and high cholesterol.
Management and Prevention of Early Menopause in Ayurveda
Ayurveda can help to prevent health risks and find relief from the intensity of early menopause symptoms. Ayurvedic treatment and natural remedies focus on strengthening and rejuvenating the reproductive system with:
- Aahara (Food)
- Vihara (Lifestyle)
- Aushadhi (Medicines and Herbal formulations)
- Karma (Treatment)
Let’s discuss these through and understand how Ayurvedic treatment and remedies can help with Early Menopause.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Early Menopause
Ayurveda offers a range of herbs that can help manage the symptoms of early menopause and enhance overall wellbeing. While it’s essential to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for personalized advice, here are a few herbs traditionally used to support women going through early menopause:
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
A powerful adaptogen, Ashwagandha helps the body manage stress, a significant trigger for early menopause. It’s also known for its potential benefits in promoting sound sleep and maintaining hormonal balance.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Often referred to as the “Queen of Herbs” in Ayurvedic medicine, Shatavari is highly regarded for its rejuvenating properties, particularly for female health. It can help balance female hormones, thus easing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings.
Amla (Emblica officinalis)
Rich in antioxidants, Amla or Indian Gooseberry, is often used to enhance immunity and slow down aging. It can also help in maintaining hormonal balance and boosting overall vitality.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric’s active compound curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for managing joint pains and inflammation commonly experienced during menopause.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Remember, while these herbs can provide support during early menopause, it’s essential to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner or a healthcare provider before starting any new herbal regimen. Ayurvedic Doctors at Medhya Herbals can guide you on the right herbs and the correct dosage according to your unique body constitution and health condition.
Ayurvedic Diet for Early Menopause
A balanced diet plays a crucial role in managing early menopause symptoms and promoting overall health. Foods rich in phytoestrogens, which are plant-based compounds that mimic estrogen in the body, can be especially beneficial. These include:
- Increase the intake of warm foods and drinks. All of these are balancing for Vata Dosha.
- Maintain regular meals and follow scheduled timings.
- Use spices as fennel and cumin.
- Avoid excess salt, chilies, spices, sour foods, and pickles.
- Reduce the use of caffeine, stimulants, refined sugar, and cold drinks.
- Stop consuming junk food, and carbonated drinks.
- Avoid untimely meals, multiple meals, late night foods, and snacks.
- Stop the consumption of processed foods and packaged foods.
Calcium rich foods to protect your bones
- Dried fig
- milk and milk products
- seeds and nuts
- cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
- leafy greens
Take in Magnesium rich foods
Magnesium rich foods help to prevent anxiety and period problems. They also promote brain health and heart health.
- whole grains
- dairy products
- leafy greens
Maintain Vitamin D sufficiency
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that supports your bones, hormone balance and heart health. With aging, Vitamin D production in the body goes down. That’s why, majority of the menopausal women struggle with Vitamin D deficiency.
You should take Vitamin D supplements and or support your body’s Vitamin D by spending more time in morning and evening sun.
Take in Healthy Fats
Healthy fats promote heart health, strong immunity and brain power. Several studies indicate that Omega 3 foods can reduce psychological distress, anxiety, and mood swings.
Additionally, Omega 3 foods prevent inflammation in the body.
- Nuts and seeds such as flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, almonds, and chia seeds.
- Fish and other sea foods such as oysters and shrimps
- Beans and lentils such as soy beans, kidney beans, and black eyed beans
- Mushrooms such as shiitake mushrooms, enoki, and shimeji mushrooms
Consume phytoestrogens (Estrogen rich foods)
Phytoestrogens will help to balance the subsiding Estrogen levels. Thus, they will support hormone balance and prevent low Estrogen levels. Here are examples:
- soy beans
- dry fruits
- seeds and nuts
- whole grains
Lifestyle Practices for Early Menopause Symptoms
Surviving and thriving through early menopause requires a combination of good healthcare, a supportive network, and proactive management of your wellbeing. By making practical adjustments to your daily routine will help to manage early menopause effectively. Here are some key strategies:
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can trigger hot flashes.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking is linked to early menopause and can worsen symptoms.
- Cool Down: Keep a fan or a cold water bottle handy to combat hot flashes.
- Mindful Relaxation: Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can help manage stress and promote relaxation. Go for nature walks, swimming, and relaxing physical activity to keep Vata and Pitta dosha in balance.
- Prioritize Sleep: Develop good sleep habits, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule and creating a calm and comfortable sleep environment. Take sound sleep for at least 6-7 hours. Go to bed early and wake up early. The best bedtime is between 10 pm to 6 am.
Yoga Asana for Early Menopause
Yoga balances both Vata Dosha and Pitta Dosha. It is an excellent therapy to promote mental wellness and improve the health of your heart, bones and muscles.
Pranayama consists of breathing techniques that calm the mind, improve oxygen flow in the body and promote hormone balance.
Here are some yoga asana that you should practice to improve your health during early menopause:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma Pranayama)
- Humming Bee Breath (Brahmari Pranayama)
- Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)
- Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
- Marichi’s Pose (Marichyasana A)
- Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
- Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Navigating the unfamiliar territory of early menopause can be challenging. You may feel confused, overwhelmed, and alone in your experiences. Remember, you’re not alone, and it’s completely normal to seek guidance and support.
At Medhya Herbals, we understand how vital it is to find relief that is personalized and addresses the root causes of your symptoms. Our team of dedicated Ayurvedic doctors is committed to providing holistic, personalized treatment plans to help manage early menopause. Ayurveda’s emphasis on balance and whole-body wellness can be a powerful tool in managing the changes and challenges that come with early menopause.
We invite you to schedule a consultation with our Ayurvedic doctors to discuss your unique situation and explore how Ayurvedic treatments can provide lasting relief. Remember, early menopause is not an end, but a transition — and with the right support and treatment, you can make this journey a stepping stone to a vibrant, fulfilling life.
What is the Earliest Age of Menopause?
The average age of natural menopause is 51 years. Yet, the actual age of natural menopause can be anywhere from 45 years to 55 years.
While Menopause is a natural physiological phenomenon, it is not taken well by a woman’s body when it happens at a young age. Early and Premature Menopause both indicate end of menstruation much earlier than the ideal age of Menopause.
Premature Menopause (menopause age below 40 years) affects nearly 1% of all the women. Also, nearly 5% of the women experience Early Menopause (before she turns 45 years). Some women have been observed to have premature menopause as early as at 36 years of age.
Signs of Early Menopause at 35 and 40
The signs of early menopause at ages 35 and 40 largely mirror those listed above. However, because women at these ages are often still in their childbearing years, these symptoms can be surprising or distressing. One might initially attribute missed periods to pregnancy or irregular cycles to stress.
As the hormonal changes of early menopause progress, women in their 30s or early 40s may also experience other symptoms, such as fatigue, hair loss, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, and breast tenderness. If you’re in your mid-30s or early 40s and experiencing these symptoms along with changes in your menstrual cycle, consult with a healthcare professional to discuss your concerns and explore potential causes, including early menopause.
Can You Have a Baby After Menopause?
Once a woman has gone through menopause, her ovaries no longer release eggs for fertilization, and natural conception is not possible. This is also true for early menopause. While the average age of natural menopause is around 51 years, early menopause can occur at any time before the age of 45. As such, fertility typically ends with the onset of menopause.
However, pregnancy after menopause is possible through methods like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) using donor eggs, or adoption. If you’re experiencing early menopause and considering these options, it’s important to discuss this with your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist to understand the possibilities, procedures, and potential risks involved.
Fertility Rates in Early Menopausal Women
The fertility rate in women decreases with age, starting to decline more steeply after the age of 35. Early menopause further accelerates this decline. Women who experience early menopause stop releasing eggs and, therefore, cannot conceive naturally.
While this news can be emotionally challenging, especially for those hoping to start or expand their families, remember that there are still options. Modern medicine and alternative pathways to parenthood, such as egg donation or adoption, make it possible for women to become parents even after the onset of menopause.
Furthermore, Ayurvedic therapies can play a supportive role in managing the emotional and physical changes that come with early menopause, and can also be used in conjunction with conventional treatments in fertility management. It’s crucial to have these discussions with your healthcare provider to understand the best path forward for you.
Is Menopause at 47 Too Early?
A common misconception is that there’s a ‘right’ age for menopause, and experiencing it before that age, such as at 47, is ‘too early’. The average age for menopause is 51, but there is considerable variation among women, with onset anywhere between 45 and 55 being considered normal. Menopause that occurs before the age of 45 is generally considered ‘early’, and before the age of 40, ‘premature’.
So, menopause at the age of 47 falls within the normal range and is not considered ‘too early’. However, if you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms at this age or younger, it’s important to discuss this with your healthcare provider. Early onset can have implications for your health and fertility, and it’s essential to manage the transition with professional medical advice and support.
Can You Reverse Early Menopause?
One of the prevalent myths surrounding early menopause is the idea that it can be reversed. It’s important to understand that menopause, once it has occurred, is a permanent condition. The cessation of menstrual cycles and fertility due to menopause, whether early or at the average age, cannot be reversed.
However, symptoms associated with menopause can be managed effectively. Ayurvedic natural treatment for Menopause can effectively help to alleviate menopause symptoms and improve overall quality of life. In some cases, women might experience symptoms that mimic menopause due to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), certain autoimmune diseases, or severe stress. Such situations might be mistaken for early menopause but may be reversible with appropriate treatment.