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MenopauseEarly and Premature Menopause

Let's Talk About Early and Premature Menopause

When your body's jolted into a physiological transition that shouldn't occur for another 10 to 20 years, it can be jarring as hell. Understanding what's going on is the first step to dealing with it and feeling better—emotionally and physically.

    Our Pro PanelEarly and Premature Menopause

    We went to some of the nation’s top menopause experts to bring you the most up-to-date info.

    Diana Bitner, M.D.

    Diana Bitner, M.D.OB/GYN and author of  "I Want to Age Like That! Healthy Aging Through Midlife and Menopause"

    Monica Christmas, M.D.

    Monica Christmas, M.D.Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Menopause Program

    UChicago Medicine
    Juliana (Jewel) Kling, M.D.

    Juliana Kling, M.D.Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Chair of Research in the Division of Women’s Health

    Mayo Clinic

    Frequently Asked QuestionsEarly and Premature Menopause

    What are some lifestyle changes I can make to prevent some of the health risks of early menopause?

    Early and premature menopause come with an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and weight gain typically associated with aging. Weight-bearing exercises—such as walking, lifting weights, or Pilates—help build bone and prevent bone loss, while eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help to prevent menopause weight gain and promote cardiovascular health.

    Is Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) the same thing as premature or early menopause?

    Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is a health condition that can affect women as young as their teens. It’s the result of a shortage of eggs in the ovaries, causing infrequent and spread-apart periods or no periods at all. Though POI can lead to primary ovarian failure (POF) and menopause, it is not the same as either. Young women with POI may still be able to ovulate and become pregnant, and should find an endocrine reproductive specialist in addition to a North American Menopause Society (NAMS) certified menopause practitioner to discuss options and treatment.

    If my medical treatment is likely to induce premature menopause, will my health insurance pay for options to allow me to still have a child in the future such as egg harvesting?

    Many health insurance plans are more likely to pay for fertility consultations and treatments if you are about to undergo a life-saving medical intervention that is likely to induce premature or early menopause. But insurance isn’t standardized, so you’ll need to check what your plan covers. The condition where fertility treatments will most standardly be paid for by insurance is cancer. Many cancer treatment centers have also begun to include fertility consultations, reproductive endocrinologists, and fertility specialists onsite, so that patients who are already in the midst of difficult health decisions don’t have to make separate plans to discuss and learn about their fertility options before or after treatment.

    It feels strange to go to a menopause practitioner while I am still so young. Is it okay to just stick with my regular primary care physician or gynecologist and to discuss my premature menopause during my annual appointment?

    Every doctor on our expert panel stressed the importance and benefit for women who are going through menopause at earlier ages to see a specifically NAMS certified menopause practitioner. Because you are not only experiencing symptoms but also at a higher risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, your menopause practitioner will know to do tests that a regular PCP or OB-GYN may not, such as preventative bone density scans to help you stop bone loss before it starts, rather than diagnose it after it has already caused a fracture. A NAMS certified menopause practitioner will also discuss treatment options to help deal with sex after menopause, such as localized hormone therapy with different estrogens and methods of application as options, as well as vaginal moisturizers that match the pH and osmolality of the vagina and the best lubricant for menopausal dryness (look for an osmolality of around 300 on the label and an absence of fragrance or chemical additives), taking the burden off of you as a patient to breach these topics yourself, and with an advanced understanding of how complex and important sexual health is in menopause at any age.

    Sara Faye Green

    Sara Faye Green

    @sarafayre

    Sara Faye Green is a writer who has contributed to Women’s Health, Vice, Guernica, The Rumpus, HuffPo, and elsewhere.