The impact of early menopause on fertility

 Early menopause can impact on your hopes and dreams for having a baby but egg donation is still an option.

Premature menopause can impact your hopes and dreams for having a baby. We chat with a reproductive specialist for more on this topic.

While the natural onset of menopause usually occurs at around the age of 51, some women, 1 in 100 to be exact, can become menopausal before the age of 40. This is called premature menopause.
“Early menopause is not the same as natural menopause because the dysfunction of the ovaries, loss of eggs, or removal of the ovaries at a young age is not a natural occurrence,” says reproductive medicine specialist, Dr Sulaiman Heylen. Early menopause can, therefore, throw a spanner in the works if you’re trying for a baby as it lessens your chances of conception.

What are the signs?

The following nine signs could indicate early menopause:

  1. Irregular menstrual periods or not menstruating at all
  2. Hot flushes
  3. Vaginal dryness
  4. Itching under the skin
  5. Reduced libido
  6. Frequently having to go to the loo
  7. Tiredness
  8. Depression
  9. Sleep disturbances

What are the causes?

Dr Heylen says the cause of early menopause is not always clear, but the following are some of the most common reasons:

  • If you’ve had surgery done on your ovaries to remove cancerous cells, endometriosis, or ovarian cysts.
  • Chemotherapy for cancers like Hodgkin’s disease or breast cancer.
  • Genetic diseases like Turner syndrome.
  • Auto-immune disorders.

How does early menopause affect your fertility?

There’s only a 5% chance of spontaneous pregnancy in women with early menopause, says Dr Le Roux. “The usual in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure for infertility doesn’t work due to the poor ovarian function and most women will need to have egg donation treatment to conceive,” he adds.

Treatment options available

Dr Heylen says early menopause is a permanent condition and it’s unlikely to be reversed, but there are treatment options you can consider:

  • Hormone therapy to treat the symptoms and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. This is usually given until the age of 51.
  • Most women who want to conceive will have to consider the egg-donation option.