‘A leading women’s health expert, Dr Marilyn Glenville, claims that more and more women are having an early menopause – before 40 and sometimes in their 20s. The normal age for ceasing periods is between 45 and 55 with an average of 50 years old.
‘The numbers are increasing and now around one in 20 women is having an early menopause,’ Dr Glenville says. ‘The good news is that doctors are recognising what is happening better, but the bad news is that this is more than likely to be due to the “ladette” lifestyle that more women are indulging in.’
There are of course women who have an early menopause due to reasons beyond their control, such as severe stress or because there is a family history of an early menopause. However some of the main causes of this syndrome known as POF (premature ovarian failure) are poor diet, smoking, alcohol and stress.
Dr Glenville suggests that chemicals in our environment can also have a huge effect on the hormonal system in the body. She believes that the increased use of non-stick pans may be another cause because the chemicals released by the non-stick coating are known to be hormone disruptors. Other factors are radiotherapy treatment, surgery or problems with the autoimmune system when the woman’s own tissues knock out ovarian function.
Sterilisation may also induce premature ovarian function, as can too much stress. ‘When the body perceives that there is dramatic stress it shuts down ovarian function. This stress can even be the result of going on a crash diet which is perceived by the body as a famine situation. This is why crash diets can be seriously damaging to your long-term health.
One of the key questions to ask a woman in consultation is when their mother had her menopause because it usually follows the same pattern. It ‘s possible that her mother had an early menopause because she smoked, so if the woman doesn’t smoke herself it may be that she will have the menopause later than her mother.
Dr Glenville believes that GPs have traditionally misdiagnosed POF and often the woman has gone away and come back in a year’s time with the same problem. ‘Recognition is improving now, but the problem is growing.’
Apart from the obvious distress of becoming infertile when ovaries are no longer functioning, women run a greater risk of getting osteoporosis, brittle bone disease. See the article What is Osteoporosis? Marilyn explains, ‘If they have POF at (say) 30 they are going to have an extra 20 years without the body producing oestrogen. This means they are far more likely to develop osteoporosis which is more prevalent in women who are post-menopausal.
‘Although I write books on alternatives to HRT for menopausal women, it is essential that women have hormone replacement therapy in these circumstances at an age when the body should be producing oestrogen. Once they reach normal menopausal age I don’t believe they need hormone replacement therapy because nature has designed women not to produce oestrogen after menopause.’
Read Marilyn Glenville’s books, Natural Solutions to the Menopause, and Osteoporosis, The Silent Epidemic – both available from Amazon by clicking on the carousel on our home page.
Dr Marilyn Glenville practises in London and Tunbridge Wells: 08705 329244, www.marilynglenville.com