So, without a big neon billboard saying, “Welcome to Menopause,” what should you do? Here are 5 Things You Need to Know about Early Menopause:
1. It’s not too early to talk to your health care provider. If your periods change significantly (become noticeably longer or shorter or vary markedly from your usual schedule) or stop altogether for three cycles before age 45, make an appointment for an evaluation. Missing periods can be a sign of other health concerns too. If you are experiencing premature or early menopause, you’re at risk for multiple long-term health consequences, including heart disease, dementia, Parkinsonism, and osteoporosis if you do not take hormone therapy, aptly termed hormone “replacement” therapy under these circumstances. Your health care provider can help determine if you are, indeed, experiencing premature or early menopause.
2. Hormone therapy is vital for lessening the long-term health consequences associated with early or premature menopause. Unless there is a clear reason to avoid hormone therapy in your particular situation, using hormone therapy at least until the natural age of menopause (age 51 years) is recommended by The North American Menopause Society and other professional medical societies. However, hormone therapy may not alleviate all of the changes associated with early estrogen loss, particularly mood changes and sexual dysfunction.
3. Your family plans may change. If you wish to have a family, you may need to consider options such as freezing embryos or eggs. If you had planned to have children, you may need to allow yourself to envision a new dream, such as building your family through in vitro fertilization with donor eggs, adoption or surrogacy.
4. You can get your sexy back. If you are experiencing low sexual desire or vaginal dryness, talk to your health care provider. Hormonal treatment with estrogen may help with vaginal dryness. For some women with low sexual desire who go through menopause early or prematurely, testosterone therapy may even be appropriate. And talk to your partner too. Good communication is associated with higher sexual satisfaction.
5. You may need extra support. If you are in early or premature menopause, you may need extra time and support to come to terms with your diagnosis and the consequences, including the potential long-term health impact and loss of fertility. Sharing your concerns with your partner, friends and your health care provider or psychologist can help. Understanding what is happening to your body and what you can do about it is key.
Published by Oxmoor House, a division of Time Inc. Books, Mayo Clinic The Menopause Solution is available online and in retail outlets nationwide. Mayo Clinic’s proceeds from the book will support medical education and research at Mayo Clinic.