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Too Young for Menopause

What causes premature menopause and what can you do?

What Causes Premature Menopause? continued...

Too many women who undergo hysterectomy remove their ovaries unnecessarily due to fear of ovarian cancer, Shapiro says. Yet, he notes, when ovaries are removed before age 55, other risks are much higher:

  • A woman is 16 times more likely to die from heart disease.
  • A woman is 3 times more likely to die from problems resulting from hip fractures.

"There is a lot of evidence to show we should preserve the ovaries," Shapiro tells WebMD.

Coping With Premature Menopause

For young women, the sudden onset of menopause symptoms -- loss of the menstrual cycle and onset of hot flashes -- is very difficult to accept, says Melissa A. McNeil, MD, MPH, chief of Women's Health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"When hot flashes happen at 50, you expect it, you know it's part of the deal," she tells WebMD. "If you have them at 35, it's demoralizing -- especially if you still have children on the agenda. To find out unexpectedly that (childbearing) is no longer an option is extremely difficult."

Mood changes and insomnia triggered by premature menopause can be especially challenging for younger women, she adds.

"If you have a 5-year-old at home -- and you're not sleeping, you're having mood swings -- it can be very difficult. We call them 'dueling hormones.' If your hormones are raging as much as your children's are, it adds to family stress."

Addressing Sexual Problems Caused by Premature Menopause

A woman's enjoyment of sex -- even her sex drive -- may also take a swan dive if she's in early menopause, Shapiro says. Vaginal dryness occurs when the body's estrogen levels are low, which can lead to painful intercourse. "Vaginal estrogen tablets work well," he says, as does vaginal cream. "These [estrogen hormones] don't get into the body, only into the vagina."

Women without working ovaries also suffer lower testosterone, the male hormone that women have in small amounts. There’s been a lot of attention in the media about testosterone’s ability to boost libido in women as well as in men. But Shapiro says he doesn’t think the evidence justifies testosterone treatment for most women. "There are so many factors in a woman's sex drive," he tells WebMD. "No one has ever shown that libido is solely related to male hormones."

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What do you use to boost sex in menopause?