Early Menopause: The Physical and Emotional Toll
(NEW YORK) -- Menopause, with its hot flashes, memory lapses and mood swings, is no walk in the park. But early menopause, also known as "premature ovarian failure," can take a heavy emotional toll, according to Sheryl Kingsberg, a psychologist specializing in women's health and fertility.
"We're talking about a woman who's not expecting to go through these changes," said Kingsberg, division chief of obstetrics and gynecology behavioral medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "It sort of ages her rapidly."
Beyond the shock of becoming "post-menopausal" while same-aged peers are starting families, the sudden drop in estrogen prompts wrinkles and plumps waistlines, Kingsberg said. It can also cause osteoporosis and "vulvovaginal atrophy" -- the thinning and drying of the vagina.
"The term alone is devastating to women," said Kingsberg, describing how the shrinking tissue also loses its sensitivity. "Early menopause is devastating in terms of fertility, sexual identity and self esteem."
Dr. James Grifo, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the NYU Fertility Center in New York, said early menopause is hard to accept but easily managed.
"We can replace what the body stops making," he said, describing hormone replacement therapies that safely and effectively ease the symptoms of menopause. "We use the same hormones the ovaries would be making at levels lower than those of ovulating women, and that resolves a lot of the symptoms."
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