Why we need to talk about premature menopause

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Why we need to talk about premature menopause

Menopause , change, climacteric: there are several terms for this special time of change in a woman’s life. Unwanted attributions even more so. During the menopause, almost every woman is confronted with prejudices such as “no longer productive”, “old” and “withered”.

If the change begins prematurely, the psychological burden is even greater. If the desire to have children has not yet been finally fulfilled, the diagnosis can pull the rug out from under the feet of those affected. Suddenly everything is completely different.

When menopause comes at 33
For Katrin Bauer ( name changed ), the premature change began at the age of 33. The first symptoms came out of nowhere for the mother of two: “I started sweating at night, my whole body and hair were really wet. There were also panic attacks. I didn’t know anything like that before.” The probable reason for the onset of the change was cervical cancer ten years earlier and the operations that were necessary as a result.

“Then my cervix was removed. Because I had a strong desire to have children, I insisted that the uterus be preserved. Thank God that worked. About four years ago, however, heavy bleeding suddenly started and the operated areas had to be removed bodies are desolate. My gynecologist said: ‘That can’t be, you’re still so young.’ The only one who took me seriously was my family doctor. He did a hormone status test with me and repeated it several times. At some point everyone, including me, had to realize that it really is like that. My first thoughts were: Why me? Why like that early? I felt alone and old. I didn’t have the desire to have a third child, but just the fact that It was hard to accept that this decision was taken from you overnight. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if I had waited longer to have children.”

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“I was smiled at by older women I told about it”
At first it was not possible to confide in someone and to talk to friends about it: “I’ve talked to friends before, but they couldn’t understand me. How could they? I was smiled at by older women who I told about it. They have just smiled and said, “I’m telling myself that. What bothered me the most was that it wasn’t possible to talk to my mother at the beginning, because she couldn’t take me and my complaints seriously at first. She didn’t make the change herself felt so intensely and did not know such symptoms.”

Nevertheless, Katrin Bauer did not give up and addressed her situation within the family. She learned from her grandmother that she too had switched jobs at the age of 35. “Talking about it within the family is hugely important. If the grandmother or mother comes into the transition early on, chances are you feel the same way.”

Depending on my hormone status, I feel better or less well. I rarely feel like having sex, suffer from vaginal dryness and often have to force myself not to take my moods out on my family.

In between, the symptoms and panic attacks got so bad that Katrin Bauer could no longer hide her condition from her employer. “I suddenly started sweating like this at work, I couldn’t breathe anymore, my heart started racing and I was sweating, I couldn’t keep going and had to get some fresh air. Sometimes I couldn’t go to work at all. I wanted to didn’t tell, but had no choice.” There was no understanding. On the contrary. “It was more that I was put under even more pressure. I was eyed critically by my manager and colleagues, as if I were making things up and acting.” Katrin Bauer finally quit the job and retrained. Her current boss is an acquaintance and he accepts her situation. In the private sphere, however, the menopause is an involuntary topic again and again. “Depending on my hormone status, I’m doing better or less well. I rarely feel like having sex, suffer from classic vaginal dryness and often have to overcome myself not to take my moods out on my family. Of course, that’s also a challenge for my partner.”

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Despite this, Katrin Bauer does not take hormones. “I’m well adjusted to herbal supplements, I can live with the symptoms and have accepted my situation.” Her advice to other women: “Accept help in good time and don’t let yourself be fobbed off. It would have made sense to seek help, especially at first. The more women talk about it, the easier it becomes to get the topic out of the taboo zone. Not every woman can do it alone and she shouldn’t have to.”

From insomnia and hot flashes to vaginal dryness and hair loss
Christian Matthai, gynaecologist, endocrinologist, nutritionist and sports doctor, treats many patients in his practice who sooner or later are confronted with the topic of change. “Strictly speaking, the term menopause is the day in a woman’s life when the last ovarian-induced menstrual bleeding was a year ago. Anything after that is called postmenopause. The alternation is the period when bleeding alternates and stops.” When the ovaries stop functioning and the last follicle is gone, the change begins in women. The intervals between the cycles become longer and at some point the woman’s fertility is history. The complaints range from sleep disorders, hot flashes to vaginal dryness and hair loss and are premature and “normal”

For women in Austria, this happens between the ages of 45 and 55. The average age is 51 years. One speaks of premature menopause when the rule fails to appear before the age of 40.

In addition to some genetic defects, there are different causes for POF – Premature Ovarian Failure or primary ovarian insufficiency, the technical term for the premature change. If the uterus or ovaries are removed due to cancer, this can be a trigger. Autoimmune or thyroid diseases can also cause the ovaries to stop functioning at an early stage. The result is a drop in hormones, which can trigger the symptoms. Still, there is no reason to panic.

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“Not every missed menstrual period indicates a premature menopause”
Christian Matthai: “Not every missed menstrual period indicates a premature menopause. The probability that another hormonal problem is behind a menstrual cycle disorder is many times higher. If the menstrual period is really infrequent and mild or typical menopausal symptoms occur, it must but you have to think about it.”

Basically, any cycle change that lasts for several months is a reason to be vigilant. Matthai: “If a woman is new to medication, has a lot of stress, flies a lot or has strong weight fluctuations in one direction or the other, this can make the cycle irregular.” If none of these things apply and the irregular bleeding has persisted for months, a hormonal status would be a first step towards diagnosis. This is offered in Austria as a health insurance benefit.

However, it is difficult to observe the cycle closely, especially under hormonal contraception. Matthai: “The pill paralyzes the ovaries during the period of hormonal contraception and more or less switches off the woman’s natural cycle. That means the ovaries look inactive.” In the case of a woman who is morbidly early in transition, this could not be determined on the ultrasound. In women who do not use hormonal contraceptives, the egg reserve in the ovaries and the activity of the ovaries can be seen. “If no eggs are visible in a young woman, that should make you suspicious,” says Matthai.

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