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Home / Lady Speak

When menopause sets in too early

 The average age for menopause among Kenyan women is 51.5 (Photo: Courtesy)

Sometimes a woman’s fertile years can end before the age of 40. This can be due to natural or induced processes.

She was only 37 when her periods stopped. And after two negative pregnancy tests, Sarah Ndeto knew something was wrong.

“I started getting irregular periods at 35. I welcomed it because that meant that I didn’t have to deal with menstrual pains. But then even during cold mornings, I would suddenly feel very hot in the face and chest area. Sometimes sweat would begin dripping.”

But Sarah only went to the doctor when her monthly flow disappeared.

“A few tests showed that I was in menopause. It has been a few months now and I am still getting used to the fact that I can’t have another baby if I wanted. I have one, and I am happy I got him when I did.” 

Menopause is a natural physiological process that marks the end of fertility and menstruation in women.

“The ovaries produce two important products, reproductive hormones and eggs,” explains Dr Charles Muteshi, a consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist at Aga Khan University Hospital.

But menopause doesn’t usually happen as early as Sarah’s did. In fact, according to data from the Kenya Laparoscopic Surgery Services, the average age for menopause among Kenyan women is 51.5. It tends to be earlier among rural women.

“Female hormones, mainly oestrogen and progesterone maintain the normal functioning of the uterus, breast development, bone and heart health. Release of an egg during ovulation defines fertility. These functions progressively decline over time, till menopause when the release of the hormones and eggs cease, marking the end of reproduction,” he says.

Once menopause sets in, it is unlikely to be reversed. When it sets in between ages 40 to 45, it is called early menopause.

When it comes before 40, it is premature menopause. Medically, the condition is known as premature ovarian insufficiency.

Even through the current data shows that only one per cent of women experience premature menopause, the figures may be underestimated since many cases go unreported.

Signs of premature menopause

Apart from dealing with ordinary symptoms that accompany menopause such as mood swings, irritability, mild depression and hot flashes, women in premature menopause might experience the following symptoms:

  • Menses that are lighter or heavier than usual
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Vaginal dryness and lessened flexibility
  • Bladder irritability and incontinence
  • Low sex drive
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Insomnia
  • Memory and concentration problems

 

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