According to the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of University of California, Los Angeles, menopause is the point in time wherein the menstrual cycle ceases because of natural depletion of ovarian oocytes due to aging. If you missed your period for 12 consecutive months, it means you entered the world of permanent infertility.
Most women dread this day. As soon as they reach their 40’s mark, most women will do everything to make the menopausal stage go as smooth as possible.
The good news is, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, changes in periods and mood changes will not last long. In fact, the National Institute on Aging reports that the average age of a woman having her last period is 51.
Unfortunately, some women reach menopause earlier than 51. In fact, some women enter menopausal stage even before they reach 40. Experts call this early menopause. The next question is what causes this condition. Here are 10 surprising things that can launch a woman into early menopause:
1. Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
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This is the most common medical explanation for early menopause. Also known as premature ovarian failure, POI is a type of condition wherein the ovaries stop functioning normally even before hitting the 4-0 mark.
In fact, irregular periods happen as early as the teenage years, which could affect your fertility. It also affects one percent of women.
Surprisingly, approximately one in every 1,000 women will reach menopause before 30.
Unfortunately, there is still no treatment to restore your ovaries. However, treatments like hormone replacement therapy, and even engaging in regular physical activity can help manage your condition.
If you are thinking about getting pregnant, the good news is that you could still have a bun in the oven. As long as you still have periods, even if you don’t get them regularly, you could still get pregnant without any medical intervention.
A helpful tool for that goal is an ovulation detector test, or even a simple basal thermometer. If you are trying to become pregnant, and you have irregular periods, talk to your doctor to learn some ways to tell if you are fertile.
2. Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy
If you have had chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments sometime in your life, you have a higher chance of experiencing induced menopause.
This means that for medical reasons, the treatment itself will cause the ovaries to stop functioning properly.
What Is The Relationship Between Menopause And Chemotherapy Or Radiation Therapy?
During treatment, one of the side effects you will experience is irregular menstrual cycles or a condition called amenorrhea.
At the same time, there are medications used in chemotherapy and radiotherapy that could damage the ovaries, which may lead to menopause; however, the effects don’t happen immediately. There will be a delay in menopausal symptoms for a few months after the treatments start.
In one of The Doctors episodes, ER physician, Dr. Travis Stork revealed that PFOA, a chemical used in nonstick coating pans could cause early menopause.
This rocked many households, since most homes these days use nonstick pans for cooking.
What Exactly Is PFOA?
PFOA or perfluorooctanate is a man made surfactant or chemical used in most food containers, paints, furniture, clothing and fire-fighting foam.
PFOAs, together with its sisters in the perfluorocarbons or PFC family, have a complex animal toxicity. This means a number of studies already showed that this chemical disrupts the endocrine system in fish and rats.
Researchers from West Virginia University School of Medicine conducted a study to determine its effect on humans.
Although the casualty is still unclear, they found out that PFOA might disrupt hormones that could trigger early menopause. In fact, women with higher levels of PFOA in their bodies are more at risk.
The researchers suggested that PFOAs could be toxic to follicles, or it may even have the ability to mimic a woman’s estrogenic properties. Some also suggested that this chemical could suppress the pituitary’s gland ability to release the follicle-stimulating hormone, thereby affecting the ability of the ovaries to function properly.
The bottom line is to choose your cookware carefully. Read labels and go for pans without PFOA. Some options are iron-clad aluminum, stainless steel and cast iron. Although the study needs further experimentation, ditch your old non-stick cookware to minimize your risks.
One of the biggest contributors for early menopause is smoking.
It lowers your estrogen levels and puts you more at risk for other medical conditions such as heart disease and even breast cancer.
According to researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, there are toxic chemicals found in cigarettes that causes your egg cells to die, and your ovaries to shut down.
You don’t have to go through this in your 30’s. This is because smoking activates the anti-hormones signals and allow a chemical called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH to take over your body.
This triggers the suicide gene to come out and kill your egg cells, thereby affecting your fertility. At the same time, you will experience menopause earlier than your non-smoker friends will, and it’s not worth it.
If that’s not enough to convince you to kick the butt, smoking leads to dry, less elastic skin that makes your skin look and feel older than its actual age. You are more prone to wrinkles and stretch marks, too.
Aside from smoking, drug addiction could also lead to early menopause.
A study published in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, reported that HIV infection and immunosuppression could lead to early menopause.
This is because drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine disrupts your menstrual cycles and affects your regular cycles in a negative way. Drugs also damage your reproductive system, which is why it would be difficult for you to get pregnant, just in case you want to.
In other words, drugs mess up with your entire system. They’re not good for your health, too. Need we say more?
6. Genetic Abnormalities
Early menopause could run in your family. If your mother, sister, grandmother or other female relatives experienced early menopause, then there is a higher chance you will experience it as well.
Aside from family history, your genes could also affect whether or not you’ll go through this stage.
As a woman, you need two X chromosomes for your ovaries to function normally. However, there are chromosome defects, which mean problems with the X chromosome, which lead to early menopause. These conditions include:
- Turner Syndrome – This is when one of your X chromosomes is abnormal or missing.
- Fragile X Syndrome – This happens when your X chromosome has a damaged or weak bottom long arm.
Another condition that affects the proper functioning of the ovaries is galactosemia. This is when your body can’t convert the galactose from carbohydrates into glucose. Experts believe that unconverted galactose could be toxic to the ovaries and could affect normal reproductive function.
Epilepsy is a condition caused by an overload of electrical activity in the brain, resulting to fits or seizures.
This means there is a temporary disturbance in the messaging center of the brain cells, which makes the brain “mixed up.”
Based on a study published in the journal Epilepsia, women with epilepsy have an increased risk of developing Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, which could lead to menopause.
This is because during seizures, the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are also affected. Once the area of the brain that regulates reproductive hormones is disrupted, issues like irregular ovulation and early menopause, among others, happen.
8. Autoimmune Conditions
Another cause for early menopause is the existence of autoimmune diseases.
This occurs when your immune system attacks portions of your body, because it mistakes it for an invader.
As many as 10 to 30 percent of women have autoimmune diseases that affect their reproductive functioning.
For instance, the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, both autoimmune conditions, could affect your ovaries. Slowly, it encourages the ovaries to stop working, thereby leading to early menopause. Other autoimmune conditions that could put your at risk are Crohn’s disease and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Physical stress can affect your periods. At the same time, psychological stress can disrupt your normal menstrual cycles. This happens when you experience any of the following:
- Trouble Sleeping
- Mood Swings
In other words, it can be hard to determine whether you are stressed, or going through early menopause. The truth is, stress alone cannot trigger your ovaries to stop working properly.
However, once you combine that with smoking, poor diet, heavy drinking and other lifestyle risks, you start to say hello to menopause – and many other problems.
If you have having problems with moods, sleeping, stress, depression or anxiety, don’t try to self-medicate or ignore the problem. Visit your doctor to get the help you deserve, so you can feel like yourself again in no time.
Most of the time, early menopause is the result of a variety of conditions all bundled together.
However, there are instances where your ovaries will stop working normally, no questions asked. This is called idiopathic premature menopause.
Idiopathic premature menopause is a medical term that describes individual cases of pre-menopausal women whose periods stop without any known cause or any existence of a serious medical condition. It is best to look for support groups and get help from friends and family to help you cope with this situation.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to lifestyle choices and being healthy. Partying, drinking until dawn, trying out drugs since you only live once, and smoking may seem like cool things to do, but unfortunately, they have their own way of getting back at you. Be smart and take care of yourself. You will thank yourself later.
Evaluate your lifestyle habits and take your chances towards a cleaner, healthier path. Get yourself checked if you notice something unusual in your body. Stick to a healthier routine, no matter how hard it is to say no to temptation.
In case early menopause comes knocking at your door, go ahead and welcome her. Just make sure to seek love, care and support to help you cope with the situation and make the transition easier for you.