They say not to grow up too fast, and for young women this is especially true. When a girl gets her period prior to 11 years of age, she is up to 80 percent more likely to develop early or premature menopause later in life.
Early puberty causes a long-term effect throughout the years, a recent study suggests. Professor Gita Mishra from The University of Queensland and a team of researchers studied over 50,000 women who had already gone through menopause, sourcing data from countries including Scandinavia, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. This is part of an international group called InterLACE, the purpose of which is to provide insight into reproductive health and chronic disease around the world.
The early onset of puberty has increased dramatically in recent years, which may cause concern for younger generations of females who are starting their periods at age 11 or younger. However, Professor Mishra says that this is not a reason to accept the fate of early menopause; rather, this information should empower young women to take control of their health early on.
“Rather than being fatalistic about it, women who began puberty early can be empowered by this knowledge,” she said. “They can talk to their GPs and take action early to improve their health outcomes in later life.”
In addition to early periods causing early or premature menopause, another deciding factor was childlessness. The data showed that women who did not bear a child showed nearly double the risk of developing early menopause than women who had borne two or more children.
“The combination of an early period and childlessness led to a five-fold increase in the risk of premature menopause and a two-fold increase in the risk of early menopause, compared to those who started their periods after age 12 and had two or more children,” said Mishra.
Nearly one in 10 women has experienced premature menopause, which is when menstruation desists before age 40, or early menopause, which occurs when menstruation stops between the ages of 40 and 44. Premature or early menopause is also linked to cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses, such as type II diabetes.
Professor Mishra believes that “those women most at risk of chronic disease may also benefit from prevention strategies and monitoring earlier in life.”
Most of the women in these collective studies were born before 1960, so the generational gap may not tell the whole story when it comes to current young generations. However, the correlation is important to note, especially for young girls who are experiencing the symptoms of early onset puberty. It is encouraged for children and youth to regularly visit their doctor and consult with a health practitioner on best practices to maintain wellness for years to come.