A diagnosis of premature menopause, also referred to as premature ovarian failure, is usually unexpected and takes young women by surprise. The effects on the woman’s body and emotions can be devastating as this condition is life changing. This is especially true for those hoping for a future pregnancy.
Premature Menopause Defined
This diagnosis applies to women under the age of 40 who experience symptoms of menopause and have a reduction in ovulation or who completely fail to ovulate. The American Pregnancy Association reports that this condition affects less than 1 percent of women age 15 to 29 and about 1 percent of women age 30 to 39. The average age of women affected is 27.
Because the body stops releasing eggs, one first noticeable sign of premature menopause may be irregular or lack of periods. In some women, their periods may be lighter or heavier than usual. Other symptoms are similar to normal menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings, bladder control problems, vaginal dryness and insomnia. Blood test results would show high FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels. Having a high FSH level is the body’s attempt to correct the problem and reactivate the ovaries.
How Fertility is Affected
Women with this condition have ovaries that are not releasing eggs or have a greatly reduced number of eggs than normal women. With the loss of regular ovulation, getting pregnant naturally and easily will be difficult or impossible. The International Premature Ovulation Failure Association reports that only 8 percent of women diagnosed with this condition are able to become pregnant.
Several fertility drugs have been tried in women, such as clomid and human menopausal gonadotropins, without much success, reports the International Premature Ovulation Failure Association. However, there is some evidence that taking hormone replacement therapy does increase the chances of a pregnancy. Consulting with a fertility specialist can give patients more information about in-vitro fertilization options using what eggs they may have left or donor eggs.
Because of the emotional consequences of this condition, getting support is crucial to help you understand the condition, mourn for the possible loss of future children and learn about treatment options. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that patients find support through the International Premature Ovarian Failure Association. Through this organization, you can join online message boards, attend conferences and webinars, and read through its research-based library of information.
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