I was privileged to interview someone recently regarding the really sensitive subject of premature menopause.

I always feel that unless you have experienced this, it is very difficult to put into words or to even begin to image what these poor women are suffering.  I also feel that it is still quite an unknown topic and very little is said about it or discussed – despite the fact that 1/100 women go through it. This obviously needs to change.

I am really grateful that JA has shared her story and hope I represent her well in this blog.

Were you aware of premature menopause before you went through it?

No – I’d never heard of it.

How old were you when you started with premature menopause? How did you notice? What happened? What changed?

I started premature menopause at the tender age of 27.  I hadn’t had a period for one whole year so went to the Drs to see what was wrong. Blood tests revealed I was menopausal. They made an appointment for me at the hospital.

Your Hospital Experience

They had obviously received notes from my Dr explaining why I was there. My appointment was with a consultant but I distinctly remember a nurse also being present who announced that she had advised her younger sister to “make hay while the sun shines”! I was so disheartened by the response and lack of empathy, I decided to go and see a private Dr – £100 per half hour!

Private Dr

He took numerous tests and went through my FSH levels etc with me. He subsequently carried out an internal ultrasound scan.  Further blood tests followed (FSH and Luteinising hormone). Whilst the ultrascan looked normal, my FSH levels were 9 (when they should have been @ 4.5). The latter info is just from memory so might not be as accurate as I state.

What is FSH I hear you ask: follicle-stimulating hormone

It helps manage the menstrual cycle and stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs. 

If you are under 35, high FSH levels are not considered normal and may indicate one of several things. It could be premature menopause, also known as premature ovarian failure or ovarian insufficiency.

What is luteinising hormone I hear you ask: LH plays an important role in sexual development and functioning. In women it helps control the menstrual cycle. It also triggers the release of an egg from the ovary. This is known as ovulation. 

Was there any support for you?  NHS/Employers?

I was a student at the time and ended up going back to the NHS for tests as it was cheaper than the private Dr. They carried out a bone scan and took some more blood tests. Then they referred me to a specialist male doctor at London Bridge. Yet again, he was accompanied by a female trainee who announced “your ovaries are like dried up raisins!”. Not something you really want to hear at 27 if you may still be hoping for a family. How insensitive! I had an XY cromozone test and was told my body was eating itself from the inside.  I was referred to counselling!

What about your journey from there?

The Dr at Lewisham College sent me to Kings College Hospital for an appointment. I had no idea why I was attending but felt I had nothing to lose. It turned out that there were 20 trainee doctors answering all our questions on egg donation! I had never been educated on egg donation or asked whether I wanted it! When I got there, Dr Lewisham had none of my notes and we ladies with potential pregnancy issues had to share the waiting room with pregnant women. There was just no sensitivity! Needless to say, I didn’t stay. Having children was never really on my agenda so I certainly didn’t want to be a guinea pig for egg donation. The question I kept asking myself though was why didn’t anyone ask me first!

What was eventually offered – treatment wise?

I was advised to take HRT for 5 years only. I used to wake up every day feeling so hopeless and just didn’t know how to get through the next day.  Within 24 hours of taking it, HRT had made an amazing difference – like I used to feel 7 years earlier. I had the first proper nights sleep in forever. All of a sudden, I could plan and think about the day ahead without getting stressed about it.

However, I subsequently moved up to Cumbria and found it difficult getting my HRT prescription. My new Dr wanted to carry out more blood tests and only wanted to prescribe one month’s supply of HRT at a time, when I was used to getting a 6 months supply. However, I was just tired of all the hassle and decided to no longer take HRT.  I just didn’t feel I needed to. However, I agreed to the continued bone scans – the last one of which is now 3 years overdue! My previous bone scan had shown some weakness.  However, as the hospital systems had changed, they were now unable to compare it to the one previously taken – alas I am still unaware whether it is worse than it was or not.

Premature menopause carries significant health risks so hormone treatment is usually given until @ 51 years of age.

MBM Overview

I think you will all agree, the service JA has received is appalling and less than satisfactory.  It highlights all of the inadequacies in women’s health to date. 

I wanted to highlight premature menopause and premature ovarian insufficiency through a REAL LIFE story. I appreciate some ladies have never heard of it. However, its important that we are all aware of it – we have siblings, mothers, nieces, friends, granddaughters etc. If you spot menopause signs in anyone that you would consider too young, take action. It’s imperative that they receive early intervention due to significant health risks.

Thank you for taking time to read the article :). I’ll blog again soon.