According to a recent batch of findings, women who begin their menopausal transition earlier in life can expect to have symptoms last up to twice as long as those who begin during later years.
The research was conducted at the University of Michigan and observed 1,145 women from 1996 to 2006. The women, who had a racial/ethnic mix of Chinese, Japanese, African-American, and white, had their monthly cycles and menopausal symptoms tracked.
It was found that younger women (below age 45) who first reported changes in their menstrual cycle tended to have longer transitions than those who first saw changes at age 51 or later. Among the later group, the transition duration was about 4.37 years. In the younger group, it was 8.57. This was found to be consistent across all four racial/ethnic groups, with the exception that African-American women had longer transitions than white women on average.
It is unclear how transition duration compared to women who first saw symptoms between age 46 and 50.
What This Means
The symptoms of menopausal transition include hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats. Sleep disruptions, disrupted sex drive, and higher volume and longer duration of menstrual bleeding are also known to occur. Some other studies have suggested that earlier menopause can increase cardiovascular or osteoporosis risks, as well.
What all of this means is that these findings may help inform patient and doctor decision-making when deciding how to address menopause symptoms. There are certain methods, such as hormone therapy, that can decrease the severity of symptoms but the treatments come with their own risks and side effects. Based on these findings, women who begin their transition later may be more willing to forgo treatment with the expectation of a shorter duration. Conversely, women who start earlier may be more inclined toward treatments if they believe the symptoms will persist for some time.
Particular mention is made of women with fibroids, a type of benign uterine growth, who could have extra difficulty coping with the blood loss of an extended menstrual transition. Special consideration for their needs may be warranted by doctors.
“Women who enter menopausal transition early should expect symptoms to persist longer,” University of Michigan web site, September 28, 2016; http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/24224-women-who-enter-menopausal-transition-early-should-expect-symptoms-to-persist-longer, last accessed October 3, 2016.