A FEW WORDS ABOUT EARLY MENOPAUSE...
Like most women, I knew about menopause, of course. It was something that usually happened to women in their 50s. It meant hot flashes, no more periods, an end to your reproductive years. It was a natural part of a woman's life that was far in the future.
And it didn't have anything to do with me, since I was still much too young. That's what I thought -- but I was wrong.
At the age of 38, I learned I was going through menopause. In fact, I was well into menopause and had been experiencing ovarian failure for many years. Menopause -- the cycle in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, when her periods begin to stop, when her hormone levels shift. Menopause -- something that typically happens at about age 51.
But menopause can and does happen to millions of women well before the "normal" age. Actually, I was one of the older women who has gone through this. Many women experience early menopause -- or premature ovarian failure -- in their 20s, even in their teens.
According to recent medical studies, approximately eight out of every 100 American women of childbearing years -- about 3.9 million women -- go through natural menopause before the age of 40. A similarly high number enter menopause early due to surgery (removal of the uterus and/or ovaries) or due to chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.
Early or premature menopause, then, isn't nearly as rare as you might think. All things considered, it's a relatively common condition... but one with uncommon consequences. There is more information on the different causes -- and on what exactly early menopause can be on this site -- in What Is Early Menopause? and the Causes of Early Menopause.
But regardless of the cause, the effect on your life is immense: You're in your 20s or 30s -- still a young woman by age standards -- or even in your teens....and you're facing something that usually would have happened decades down the road. You're dealing with the physical effects of menopause -- hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety -- and you're dealing with the emotional side effects of entering menopause so many years earlier than normal -- feeling out of synch with your peers, coping with the depression that comes when you realize your reproductive years are over before you ever dreamed. It's a double whammy: your body is going through immense changes and your psyche, your self-image, is rocked. And unlike older women who go through menopause at the "normal" time, you're completely unprepared. Early menopause usually comes completely out of the blue.
This web site -- and the book I've written -- are designed to help you cope with this unexpected change.
Please note: Ms. Petras is no longer involved with EarlyMenopause.com in an editoral capacity.