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Does early menopause run in your family?

What is primary ovarian insufficiency?

Primary ovarian insufficiency, also called premature ovarian failure and early menopause, is defined as a loss of ovarian function before age 40. With the cessation of normal ovarian function, estrogen levels diminish and eggs are not released. Infertility and an increased risk of osteoporosis is a common result. Dr. Stephanie Beall, from our SGF Columbia and Towson, MD offices, provides insight to whom early menopause impacts, the effects, and what women can do about it.

How common is premature ovarian failure?

Approximately 1-3 percent of women experience early menopause. Unfortunately, there are usually no warning signs and it can impact women at any age. It can even occur prior to the first menstrual cycle.  For most women they only become aware when they stop having regular menstrual cycles. The ultimate impact regardless of when it occurs is that she will no long be able to have a child using her own eggs.

Dr. Beall shares her experience discussing premature ovarian failure with patients, as premature ovarian failure can be devastating, especially when it is not expected, “For some women, it represents a loss of who they are and their identity as a woman—when you lose that identity there can be a lot of shame and guilt if you are not able to start a family with a husband or partner. It is incredibly difficult. Luckily, there is something women can do to be proactive.”

What can you do about early menopause?

Dr. Beall: “Be proactive. We understand that there is a genetic link, although we don’t know all the genes involved”.  With this knowledge, women can actively talk with family members to learn if they have experienced early menopause. Due to a shift in culture, more women are talking about their difficulties conceiving.”

If a family member shares that she did have menopause prior to age 51 (the average age a woman reaches menopause), Dr. Beall recommends that you test your own ovarian function.

I have early menopause in my family, how do I measure my own ovarian function?

Testing ovarian function is as simple as getting your anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) level tested. This hormone level provides the best insight into a woman’s current ovarian reserve. Testing can be done at your OB/GYN or at Shady Grove Fertility. An AMH test paired with other initial fertility testing provides your physician with a complete picture of your overall fertility.

Dr. Beall: “My advice for women is to ask around; find out if anyone in your family has experienced menopause earlier than expected. If they have, get your ovaries tested. Your testing results will reveal a great deal of information that your physician can use to advise you regarding your next steps, which may include seeing a reproductive endocrinologist or considering egg freezing.”


To learn more about how early menopause may impact your fertility, or to schedule an appointment, please speak to one of our New Patient Liaisons at 1-877-971-7755 or click here. 

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  1. Marie

    January 6, 2017 - 8:31 pm

    I also have/currently dealing with early menopause and I just turned 37. I haven’t had any kids YET. I too wish I would have known earlier to freeze my eggs, but I am hopeful in still possibly conceiving with a donor egg. Anyone else utilize donor eggs? What was the process like?

  2. Karri Johnson

    January 5, 2017 - 5:55 pm

    I hit early menopause at age 42. I am now 44. I found out thru family members that I am the only one who went through it early. My mom was age 58 when she went through it, as well as, my grandmother. I still don’t know why this happened to me. Maybe, when I was younger… doctor’s could have dx me before this happened to me. I could have had my eggs frozen and would have had that last child. I do still get spotting issues. I do have PCOS and maybe that’s the reason why I went so early.

    • LMC

      January 11, 2017 - 1:53 am

      Don’t feel bad. I was 36/37 when I had my first hot flash, got pregnant, lost the baby (1st/2nd trimester time – had heard the heartbeat, seen movement, etc.) and it’s been a roller coaster emotionally ever since. Come to find out, all but 1 sister hasn’t had a miscarriage. All my aunts back 3 generations have had miscarriages and went into menopause early and became precancerous and had hysterectomies (my mom included). Why don’t we talk about the “dark” side of fertility? All anyone talks about is the sweet buddle of joy and how “easy” it is, but that is not reality. ObGYNs need to educate women about complications and miscarriages BEFORE the patient reaches the point of no return. Or so patients can plan financially – infertility is expensive and insurance doesn’t cover it because it’s not a “medical” condition. Then what type of condition is it? Because I am so open about my experience (finally) I have been so surprised how many complete strangers will tell me about their experience. Personally it’s heart breaking to hear my sons and husband ask me for a girl I cannot provide them or to hear strangers tell me I should have another.

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