Around 6% of British women suffer unexplained early menopause, giving them much greater risks of heart attack, stroke, and bone disease while make it much harder to conceive at a relatively early age. Early menopause is generally defined as menopausal symptoms before the age of 45.
Another 1.4% of women go through early menopause due to cancer treatment or surgery to remove their ovaries. In these instances, women often have the option to freeze their eggs to ensure that they can still have a child if they choose to.
Causes of Early Menopause
There is no single cause for all early menopause or POF (Premature Ovarian Failiure) and in many cases, doctors can not find an underlying cause for it. However, in other instances it can be caused by:
- Infections such as tuberculosis, mumps, malaria, varicella, and shigella
- Medical conditions such as enzyme deficiencies, Turner syndrome, Addison’s disease, and hypothyroidism
There is also some evidence that women with a family history of early menopause are more likely to experience it themselves – between 10 and 20% of women with a family history will experience it, compared to 7.4% of the general population. Some viral infections during foetal development can also have an impact on ovarian development and function.
Conceiving After Early Menopause
If caught early on, women in the earlier stages of POA (Premature Ovarian Aging) often have enough follicles and eggs for a reasonable chance of pregnancy with their own eggs. However, women who are already experiencing POF (Premature Ovarian Failure) are unlikely to have a realistic chance of pregnancy with their own eggs.
In both instances, it’s highly recommended to use IVF rather than relying natural conception, especially as viable egg numbers continue to decrease. The latter part of IVF is the same for both POA and POF, but women with enough viable eggs can opt to use their own rather than donor eggs for their pregnancy.
In some instances, women with POA still opt for donor eggs as it avoids issues associated with poor egg quality or too few eggs. This option offers a much better chance of pregnancy, and results are consistently better with donor eggs.