Menopause for most of women is something we don’t even think about, nor do we consider it will ever happen to us any time soon. This is not the case, it will happen to all of us at some point in life and for the unlucky few, it will be something that comes earlier than expected. I say, ‘unlucky’, because although we probably only see it now as ‘our periods coming to an end’ — early menopause is not something to be joyful about.
Ordinarily, menopause doesn’t start until you’re between 45 and 55 years of age. It is a natural process and a sign that we are ageing and no longer able to conceive. However, it can have very debilitating effects on some women. The symptoms for both menopause and early menopause include feeling low and experiencing anxiety, reduced sex drive, hot flushes, difficulty sleeping and problems with memory and concentration. These are daily symptoms that barely let up and sadly there are not many things that can help those going through it — old or young. It’s not nice for women to go through menopause naturally, at the right age, and it’s worse still for those going through it too early.
There have been cases of girls as young as 11 having experienced menopause. I don’t think that we fully appreciate the impact something like this can have on a young girl. It means she has no opportunity to conceive naturally, if at all, along with all the other mental and physical symptoms. This needs to start hitting home and more support and awareness should be given to the vulnerable women with this condition.
One case in particular was that of Amanda Lewis — one of the youngest girls to be diagnosed with early menopause. She began experiencing symptoms at age 11 and was diagnosed at the age of 13. She described feeling lonely during that time in her life as there wasn’t a lot of support for what she was going through. The only support she mentions being given were some leaflets that were aimed at older women. It wasn’t until she began getting a little older that she realised the seriousness of her condition and its heartbreaking consequence; being unable to have children, naturally. Amanda was eventually able to conceive through other methods but it was a long journey — one that a young girl should not have to think about.
There is still no confirmed reason that explains why early menopause happens. It has been put down to a few things such as genetics or autoimmune diseases, but most of the time the precise cause is unknown. There remains a lack of research regarding this and a lack of support for those going through it, and the latter is something that we can and should change. A study from 2010 made a step in the right direction by trying to develop a test that could predict early menopause. However, this was nearly a decade ago and it doesn’t look like a lot has been found since then other than the suggestion that diet could influence a woman’s onset of menopause.
More research is desperately needed to explain why early menopause occurs in some women. More needs to be done to help those of all ages going through it. Menopause is a fact of life, early menopause is an unfortunate dilemma. It’s time we took a serious step towards helping our fellow sisters across the world.