Questions about Reproductive or Menopausal Issues
What is a reproductive endocrinologist?
A reproductive endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in infertility and hormonal disorders. Many women with premature ovarian failure prefer seeing these doctors because they are specialists, who are particularly helpful for patients hoping to pursue a pregnancy.
What tests should I ask my doctor for if I think I am going through early menopause?
The key test to determine whether or not you are in menopause is a FSH test, which measures the blood levels of your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Your FSH levels rise when your ovaries stop producing enough estrogen, so high FSH levels can signal that your body is entering menopause. The best time to get an FSH test for the most accurate reading is on the third day of your menstrual cycle, if you are still getting periods.
Another test you might want to consider is a blood test of your estradiol levels. Estradiol is a form of estrogen in your body, and the levels of it drop when your ovaries start to fail. Low estradiol levels, therefore, may indicate that you are entering an early menopause.
A thyroid test may also be a wise option. Many of the symptoms of premature and early menopause are the same as those for thyroid disease, so it's a good idea to determine whether your symptoms are due to thryoid problems or menopause.
What about getting an ultrasound of my ovaries?
In some cases, your doctor may perform high resolution ovarian ultrasound to view your ovaries. This procedure determines whether you still have eggs and follicles, but this information does not help that much. The problem is that even when eggs are detected, attempts to stimulate ovulation through hormones have been relatively unsuccessful. However, ultrasound may make sense if you are in the early stages of premature menopause and are intending to pursue an aggressive fertility program.
I am still getting periods, but I have a lot of symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Is this normal?
Yes, it is. Even though the technical definition of menopause is not having your period for at least six months to a year, it is not uncommon for young women going through early menopause or premature ovarian failure to get periods fairly regularly. Hormones often fluctuate erratically at the beginning stages of early or premature menopause, so you may be producing enough estrogen to get periods even while your FSH levels are high. Many times, your cycles will be "anovulatory" (in other words, you are not producing an egg), but you are producing enough estrogen to build up your uterine lining.
How long will my symptoms last?
Some women get symptoms for only a short time, while others get intense symptoms for years. Most women get symptoms for a few years, and then they fade out. The real key to making your symptoms go away now is by either going on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or by using alternative treatments, like phytoestrogens, herbs and vitamins.
Does going through menopause early mean I am aging more quickly?
Absolutely not. Going through menopause years before you expected does not mean you are suddenly older. It does mean that your ovaries are not functioning the same way as those of most women in their 20s and 30s. Early or premature menopause does not mean that you have a shorter life span or that you have fast-forwarded to the body of an older woman. Yes, there are certain health risks that you now face, like the threat of osteoporosis. You might also notice your skin getting drier or a change in your body shape, but if you go on HRT, you can minimize those risks, reverse those symptoms and feel like yourself again!