The menopause is a time of life in which many emotions are experienced. In addition to experiencing a transition to a non-fertile stage, women suffer many hormonal alterations associated with the decrease in oestrogen.
Menopause traditionally occurs around the age of 50, but many women experience an early menopause.
In this article, our experts in Assisted Reproduction will explain what it means to experience early menopause, what its symptoms are, how it can affect your fertility and what alternatives you have to achieve pregnancy.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the time in life when a woman has her last menstrual period. It is very important to differentiate with the concept of “climacteric“, as this corresponds to the entire transition stage between a fertile and a non-fertile state.
Generally, concepts are confused, and people refer to the menopause as the whole process in which the loss of menstruation is experienced and hormonal changes occur; however, to refer to the above, the correct term is climacteric.
The phases of the climacteric
From the onset of the climacteric period and progressively, oestrogen begins to decrease, causing the eggs not to mature as before.
The climacteric period begins several years before the onset of the menopause and consists of several phases in which women experience completely normal hormonal changes.
The first stage of the climacteric period is the pre-menopause or perimenopause, which begins around 3 to 5 years before the menopause. This is when the first symptoms are experienced, which are usually menstrual cycle disturbances, hot flushes, and mood swings. Due to hormonal changes, women begin to notice changes in menstruation, in terms of the frequency and abundance of bleeding.
Generally, between the ages of 45 and 55, menopause is the second stage of the climacteric period. A woman is in menopause when she has not menstruated for more than a year and, in most cases, it represents the end of her fertile period.
Finally, the climacteric period reaches its final phase with the postmenopause and, in some cases, can extend up to 20 years after menopause, i.e., until the onset of senility.
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When do we talk about early menopause?
Menopause generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55; however, there are cases in which hormonal and reproductive alterations are experienced that anticipate its arrival.
A woman is considered to suffer from premature or early menopause when it occurs before the age of 40.
As previously explained, perimenopause or pre-menopause encompasses the experience of pre-menopausal symptoms, which can occur 3 to 5 years before menopause. In cases of early menopause, perimenopause also occurs earlier and is often reflected as early ovarian failure.
To diagnose premature or early menopause and identify that you are experiencing early ovarian failure, medical specialists perform physical, gynaecological and blood tests, especially to check your oestrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone levels.
This is especially important to detect if you want to become a mother, since if you are going through early ovarian failure or are about to experience early menopause, your chances of getting pregnant will be lower and you will most likely have to resort to Assisted Reproduction techniques.
Symptoms of early menopause
The symptoms of early menopause are the same as those of a traditional menopause. It is important to note that symptoms may vary between women, as each body and system is unique.
• Alterations in the menstrual cycle (abundance and periodicity)
• Changes in mood due to hormonal changes
• Hot flushes and changes in the body’s thermostat
• Affect on metabolism
• Altered sexual desire
• Vaginal and skin dryness
• Possible urinary incontinence
How does premenopause affect pregnancy?
The main effect of the onset of premenopause is that ovulation disappears or decreases to very low levels, causing the ovarian reserve to be depleted.
In order to achieve a natural pregnancy with your own eggs, it is necessary to have an ovarian reserve in “normal” values, ranging from 0.7 to 3.5 ng/ml.
Ovulation levels vary among premenopausal women. So, if you think you are experiencing early menopause and want to become a mother, it is very important that you go to your gynaecologist for tests and to check your ovarian reserve. The sooner you have this information, the sooner you can receive advice on what action to take.
Can I become a mother if I suffer from pre-menopause or early ovarian failure?
Until a woman “officially” experiences the onset of menopause, it is considered that there is still a chance of becoming a mother. However, it is important to know that if you are pre-menopausal or have been diagnosed with early ovarian failure, it will be more difficult for you to achieve pregnancy with your own eggs.
In view of this, assisted reproduction is a very good alternative for becoming a mother during the pre-menopause.
The alternatives available to you will depend on your ovarian reserve; however, In Vitro Fertilisation with egg donation is often recommended. This technique makes it possible to obtain a pregnancy when the woman does not have eggs of sufficient quality.
At IVFforYOU we have exceptional results, with a 91.5% success rate per cycle. In addition, we have a bank of egg donors who have been previously studied to ensure the quality of the donation.
Other techniques recommended in cases of early menopause would be: Embryo Donation, In Vitro Fertilisation using vitrified oocytes at an earlier age (before the onset of menopause) or the transfer of frozen embryos, created before the diagnosis of early ovarian failure.
Frequently asked questions related to menopause and motherhood
Early menopause is when a woman before the age of 40 has already had her menstrual cycle disappear for 12 months. Early ovarian failure refers to the fact that a woman suffers premature ovarian failure, which can even occur before the age of 30.
Menopause refers to the specific milestone when a woman has not menstruated for more than 12 months. It is therefore not an extended period of time, but rather a particular point in time when a stage is reached. However, pre-menopausal symptoms are more extensive in time and may occur several years earlier.
Climacteric can begin 3 to 5 years before menopause, which occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. In total, climacteric can last for several years after menopause, even into the 70s.
Early menopause occurs before the age of 40.
Climacteric is the stage when a woman moves from a reproductive to a non-reproductive state, and this can be a more extensive and transitory process. Menopause, on the other hand, is to refer to the point at which the last menstrual period occurs.
It is very difficult to get pregnant in menopause, as the ovarian reserve is practically nil. However, if a woman is in pre-menopause or perimenopause, there is still a chance of getting pregnant, as she is still ovulating.
At IVFforYOU we can inform you of the alternatives you have to achieve your pregnancy. Contact us, the first visit with our experts is free!