WOMAN REACHES MENOPAUSE AT 34, FEARS DAUGHTER MAY EXPERIENCE IT EARLY TOO

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The average age of menopause is 51 years old. But for Mrs. Dearden she reached it at 34 years old. Recent medical research shows that there is a genetic link, which means that the same — or worse — could happen to her daughter, Lily-Bea. In this report, she shares her experience.

“As I watch my nine-year-old daughter Lily-Beatrice designing an outfit in her sketchbook, I look adoringly at the little face scrunched up with concentration. She lifts her head and sees me smiling at her: ‘I love you Mummy,’ she says.

‘I love you more,’ I reply, as I always do.

“She talks me through the cut of the dress she is designing and explains how you could wear it from day to night if you change the accessories. She wants to be a fashion journalist and is admirably focused on her future career.

“Most mothers are able to delight in imagining their children’s future, but for me the joy is bittersweet.

“Thinking about my daughter working in the future, meeting her first partner and getting married reminds me that things might not be so simple for her as they are for most other young women.

“Six years ago, when I was just 34 and considering a third child, I was devastated to find out that I had already gone through the menopause. It is very hard to know that you may have passed on a condition that could compromise the quality of your daughter’s life and may mean she can never have children.

“The guilt is unbearable. Instead of protecting my daughter and giving her everything I can, I may have robbed her of one of the greatest gifts a woman can experience.

“Dating will be more complicated, as every time she meets a new partner she will have to have ‘that’ conversation about children.

“Should she sacrifice a career to concentrate on having children first, and if so, what opportunities will she miss out on? What if she can’t find a partner to have children with before her eggs run out?

“And that’s before you even consider the huge health implications of suffering an early menopause — which include an increased risk of everything from brain haemorrhages to Alzheimer’s to osteoporosis.

“Night after night, I am kept awake by the fear of the terrible legacy I have passed on to my beloved daughter.

“Everyone has those moments in their lives when they are told something truly awful. Mine happened one sunny summer afternoon in 2008 in my doctor’s surgery in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

“I was in my mid-30s with two beautiful children — Lily-Beatrice and Enan, now 13 — and had gone to the doctor because my period was a couple of months late. I wondered if I could be pregnant, despite it not showing up on my home tests.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, Mrs. Dearden,’ the female doctor said kindly. ‘But you have gone through the menopause.’

“The results of my blood tests were unequivocal. My follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) — the hormone that helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries — was 123.

“Normal levels are between four and 21, and post‑menopausal over 25.

“The doctors had no idea why my levels were so stratospherically high, but they were sure that there was nothing they could do to reverse it. As soon as I was out of the surgery I called my husband Jason. I was in such a state of shock I could hardly get my words out.

“In the year preceding my devastating diagnosis, Jason and I had been discussing the possibility of having a third child. His career in marketing was going well, as was mine in journalism, and we had bought a five-bedroom house in Northamptonshire. It seemed natural to fill one of our lovely empty bedrooms with a baby.

“I had been feeling incredibly broody, so much so that I felt teary when I saw little babies. Looking back, I wonder if this was my body telling me I was running out of time.

“The weeks after my diagnosis were awful. Not only was I coming to terms with the fact that I’d never have another baby, but that my lifespan could be seriously reduced.

“As well as increasing my risk of a cerebral aneurysm — an abnormal bulge in the arteries in the brain that can burst, resulting in a potentially fatal or disabling brain haemorrhage — I was also told I was more likely to develop a host of other terrifying conditions.

Studies have found that women affected by early menopause have a greater risk of dying early, developing heart disease and neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as psychiatric disorders and osteoporosis.

A study in 2011 by Imperial College London found that women who went through early menopause were also twice as likely to have a generally poor quality of life in health terms.

Recent U.S. research found women who did so before the age of 46 have more than twice the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem than those who had not gone through it by that age.

The average age for women to go through the menopause in the UK is 51, which is exactly when my mother and grandmother went through ‘the change’.

“Somehow, though, I seem to have gone through the menopause 15 years earlier, something which has proven to be utterly life-changing. Only around one in 100 women goes through it under the age of 40, so my first question was naturally, why me?

“My consultant explained that going through an early menopause may be due to any number of things, from having the ovaries removed to a course of radiotherapy. But for many, like me, there simply is no easy explanation.

“Some women are simply born with fewer eggs, which means they run out more quickly.

“On reflection, perhaps lifestyle factors were at play. I was highly stressed at the time of my diagnosis. I was working long hours with two young children. I was also being bullied at work, so it was a hectic time.

“Fortunately, aside from a few hot flushes, I didn’t have any of the other common side-effects of the menopause.

“After a series of appointments with a consultant, it was decided that the only answer was hormone replacement, which seemed preposterous to me at the time. Not only did I feel young, but everyone was always telling me how young I looked.

“HRT was something I associated with women in their 50s and 60s. It felt ridiculous to be taking it at my age.

“People expressed amazement when I told them I had gone through an early menopause and it quickly became clear that for some people, the subject is still taboo. Some friends were embarrassed, more for me I think, and as the weeks went on, I questioned my femininity.

“Being told that I could no longer have children was also a kind of bereavement. Even today, I catch myself looking at little babies and wondering what might have been.

“But worse than being prevented from having more children, is the fact that I may have destroyed my own daughter’s chances of happiness.

“Nabil Aziz, consultant in gynaecology and reproductive medicine at Spire Liverpool Hospital, agrees that passing on an early menopause to your female offspring is a real concern.

‘There is some data that suggests there are genetic influences [in relation to early menopause],’ he says. ‘This is a relatively new discovery so there is limited data available. But to put it simply the answer is yes, there is a familial link.’

Marilyn Glenville, a leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health, agrees that young women need to be aware as early as possible of their reproductive health.

‘Women need to keep themselves healthy and shouldn’t really delay pregnancy if the relationship is right,’ she says. ‘Lots of women are freezing eggs as an insurance policy, but even then, in a culture where women drink, smoke and work longer hours, the quality of eggs can be compromised.’

“My story is a clear message for all women, not just my daughter. Women must be aware that their fertility could wane unexpectedly like mine. Arming yourself with information to make decisions is a wise move. Don’t just assume, like I did, that it will all be OK. Because it might not be.

“There were never any signs that the menopause would come to haunt me in my early 30s and leave me unable to have that family a little later in life, like so many women these days choose to.”

Culled from Daily Mail

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