Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing a hormone called oestrogen which controls your reproductive cycle. A woman goes into menopause when she has not had a period for longer than 12 months. If you are still having regular periods, it is possible to have an unplanned pregnancy. Marie Stopes South Africa offers a safe abortion service if you choose to terminate the pregnancy.
Menopause marks the end of the reproductive cycle, meaning that she cannot fall pregnant.
This function is a natural part of the aging process. It usually occurs in women between 45 – 55 years of age; the median age is 51. However, some women go into the menopause transition before 40 years of age – this is known as early menopause.
Causes of early menopause
Unfortunately, there are a few causes that cannot be determined, but known factors include:
Genetics: Early menopause can be inherited. Finding out when your mother went into menopause should give you a good idea of when you may start the transition into menopause.
Chromosome abnormalities: Defects of certain chromosomes and medical conditions can lead to early menopause.
Lifestyle factors: Stop (or don’t start) smoking! Smoking has anti-oestrogen effects that can contribute to early menopause. According to the Mayo Clinic, ‘women who smoke may start menopause one to two years earlier than women who don’t smoke.’
Body mass index (BMI) can also be a factor. A healthy BMI for a woman is between 18.5 – 24.9; a BMI below 18.5 is classified as ‘underweight’
A low BMI influences the chances of early menopause because oestrogen accumulates in fat tissue. According to Healthline, ‘Women who are very thin have fewer oestrogen stores, which can be depleted sooner. Some research also suggests that a vegetarian diet, lack of exercise, and lack of sun exposure throughout your life can all cause early onset of menopause.’
Autoimmune diseases: In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakes a part of the body for an invader and attacks it. Inflammation caused by some of these diseases can affect the ovaries. Menopause begins when the ovaries stop working.
Epilepsy is a chronic disease that causes recurrent seizures. Research has found that women with epilepsy are more likely to experience premature ovarian failure, which leads to menopause.
Irregular periods or periods that are noticeably longer or shorter than normal. Other symptoms include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Spotting – spots of vaginal bleeding when a woman is not on her period
- Periods that last longer than a week
- A period after a year of no bleeding
Can menopause be prevented?
No. Menopause is a natural part of aging. There are preemptive methods that you can take to avoid some of the complications such as keeping a healthy lifestyle; there is also the option of menopause hormone therapy (MHT).
You CAN still have a child
The good news is that even if you have early menopause, there are still options for you to have a family. These options include:
- Egg donation
How Marie Stopes South Africa can help you
We have 17 centres conveniently located throughout the country. Please feel free to book an appointment with us to get more information about our services.