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Premature Menopause

Posted November. 21, 2005 08:40,   


The disclosure of an illegal ovum trade has made a big splash in Korea. It even made people look suspiciously at the stem cell research of Hwang Woo-suk, the renowned Seoul National University professor and stem-cell researcher.

Under usual circumstances, either one of two ovaries release one ovum during a single ovulation period. However, when ova for sales are artificially extracted, women are injected with a hormone that induces hyperstimulation, allowing 10 to 15 ova to be extracted.

This is simply outrageous to those who suffer from menopause that comes too early. Some feel frustrated because even though they want to get pregnant, they cannot as there is no ovum.

November is Menopause Awareness Month. Usually, menopause appears before or after women turn 50. However, an increasing number of women are experiencing menopause before they turn 40.

Can premature menopause be prevented?-

As of now, there is no way to prevent premature menopause even if its warning signs are detected. This is because there are no remaining ovarian follicles, the parent cells of ova. Therefore, once menopause starts, it is irreversible.

The number of ovarian follicles is at the highest, five to six million, two weeks after a woman is born. But that number slowly declines, and when a woman reaches adolescence, the remaining ovarian follicles number about 300,000. Each menstruation period consumes about 1,000 ovarian follicles, but only one of them develops into a mature ovum while the other 999 go extinct.

There are a variety of causes for premature menopause. If a woman suffers from Turner’s syndrome, she may experience premature menopause because ovarian follicles decrease too rapidly in those afflicted. Autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease and diabetes also can cause premature menopause.

Smoking cigarettes compromises ovarian function. If you are a smoker, you are well advised to kick the habit right now, if you want to avoid a premature menopause.

There are cases where women who fell ill with diseases caused by infections when they were children experience premature menopause. However, those cases are relatively rare.

How to cope with premature menopause-

If menopause starts too early, most women feel depressed because they think they have lost their femininity. Besides, more often than not, women who go through early menopause suffer from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, perspiration, insomnia, and arthritis.

What is important is to relax and to come to terms with reality.

There are many academics who interpret menopause as “a pause on men.” Their logic is that women living through menopause can start a new life free from pregnancies and families.

If you are diagnosed with menopause, it is also important to be prescribed remedies that match your symptoms. K, aged 38, is a case in point.

Three years ago, K’s menstruation became irregular, and there has been no menstruation for the past six months. Two to three months ago, she started to have symptoms such as hot flashes. K visited an OB-GYN clinic and was diagnosed with premature menopause.

The doctor recommended hormone treatments as well as exercises that are not strenuous and require lots of air. The exercises recommended by the doctor included walking. K followed the doctor’s instructions and tried to not to get nervous about her menopause that came too early. As a result, K feels comfortable now.

Is getting pregnant really impossible once menopause starts early?-

If women go through early menopause in their late 20’s, there is still possibility for them to become pregnant. In this case, about five percent of them can succeed in getting pregnant if they get hormone treatments because hormones stimulate the ovarian follicles that remain in the body.

Another countermeasure to early menopause is to get blood tests in advance and to store ova in refrigerators if signs of premature menopause are found in those blood tests. Currently, most university hospitals store ova in freezers. In this case, usually three to five ova are stashed away and frozen. Recently, many hospitals and clinics have been freezing and storing fertilized embryos

Sang-Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com