You maybe be reading this title and thinking… WTF menopause in your 30s?!? Well, let me answer the question. Yes, menopause in your 30s is a real thing, and I know because it happened to me.
How I was diagnosed
I had been on birth control since the birth of our daughter in 2014. I came off birth control in early 2017, when my husband and I decided to try for a second child. After I stopped taking birth control, my period went missing. But, I wasn’t surprised, as I had the same experience when trying to get pregnant with my daughter. But this time was different. I had no period for over six months, accompanied by horrible hot flashes.
I decided that this wasn’t normal and went to see my family doctor, who ran multiple blood tests. She was candid with me and expressed her concern that my blood work showed many post-menopausal signs and referred me to a fertility clinic.
The fertility clinic put me on cycle monitoring (which was hard considering I had not had a period in almost 8 months). They conducted many tests, and I had multiple ultrasounds. After approximately 30-days, they diagnosed me with Premature Ovarian Failure. I was told I had less than a 5% chance of conceiving a child naturally. I was in complete shock and felt numb – How could this happen to me at age 34?
After my diagnosis, I did what any reasonable person does. I consulted Dr. Google and learned that this condition was much more common than I thought. Yet NO ONE was talking about it. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 1 in every 100 women between the ages of 30-39 are affected by Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), also called premature insufficiency. POF occurs when the ovaries stop functioning normally before age 40. When this happens, your ovaries don’t produce normal amounts of estrogen or release eggs regularly, which often leads to infertility. However, women with POF can have irregular or occasional periods for years and might even get pregnant, hence the 5% chance.
After my initial diagnosis, I was determined that we would be in the 5% to naturally conceive a child. But when 18 months went by with no sign of my period. I was officially diagnosed with menopause at 35. I had to come to terms with never being able to conceive a child naturally again.
I’ll be honest. At first, I was ashamed because it felt awful that I couldn’t do the one thing that “women” were supposed to do. It took several months to let go of the guilt of not being able to give our daughter the sibling she so desperately wanted. And forget the sadness in our parents’ eyes when we told them the news. But through the support of my amazing husband and best friends. I was able to find the silver lining in all of this; I am alive, I am healthy, I have a beautiful daughter, and I wouldn’t have to buy tampons again!
Have you ever been in a meeting and started sweating uncontrollably? Or better yet, lying in bed a night only to be woken up in soaking wet pajamas? Or not being able to wear a sweater – like EVER! Likely not… but trust me, it’s not pretty!
Well, some clear symptoms go along with POF and early menopause; hot flashes, night sweats, no libido, brain fog, to name a few. I strongly suggest if you are experiencing any of these, go to the doctor and DO NOT let them put you on birth control as a way to “fix” your symptoms. You need to ask for blood work of all your hormones levels, but especially FSH and LSH, those are true indicators to menopause and/or POF.
POF can be caused by chromosomal defects, genetic disorders, autoimmune diseases, toxins and then here’s the kicker – unknown causes. Which is me, after many tests, they have no clue what caused this for me. It just happened.
Well, obviously, there is no cure for POF or early-onset menopause. For some women with POF, it can go into remission, their symptoms subside, and they can conceive a child naturally. Other women opt to use an egg donor to have a child with POF. Unfortunately, once I moved into menopause, my options for treatment were hormone replacement therapy. It’s crucial to replace the estrogen that my body was no longer making. Which would help reduce those killer night sweats and keep my heart and bones healthy and strong.
In September 2019, I started daily estrogen patches and progesterone pills every three months. Let me tell you how fun it is to have a piece of “tape” stuck of your butt every day for three months – NOT FUN! At the end of the three months, I took progesterone pills for 10 days and got the first “period” I have had in almost two years, and it lasted for nearly 4 weeks. Needless to say, I was not going to do that again.
So, I decided to take a more holistic approach and take supplements and change my diet (I went vegan). It did seem to help for quite a few months. But, since April, my hot flashes, brain fog and lack of focus seem to have come back with a vengeance.
I recently met with a new gynecologist, and she felt given my age and that I am already in menopause. The best treatment plan for me would be to go back on birth control again (I use the Nuvaring), as it has a higher dose of estrogen, which is needed for someone at my age. Which is fine for me, if it means no more night sweats and improved memory and focus. The only downside is I may get a “period” every month.
My support system
As I mentioned before, my husband was my rock through all of this and my closest girlfriends. But, sometimes, you just need to connect with people who are going through the same thing. So, I joined several POF, POI, and early menopause support groups. I have made so many connections with women in my position. The groups and relationships I have built have allowed me to learn much more about the condition, treatment options, coping mechanisms, etc. It’s seriously like digital group therapy, and it’s so awesome!
All jokes aside, it is of the toughest things I’ve been through in my life. It is tough to have the right to choose, taken away from you. However, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that God has a greater purpose.
I wanted to share my story and experience, as there are likely other women in the same position. I want them to know that you will be okay, and this condition is nothing to be ashamed of. There is one thing that I always tell myself on tough days. “You were given this life because you’re strong enough to live it.”