The discussion about menopause, which signals the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, seems to have assumed a more diverse and interesting dimension in recent years following the recent cases of women who, in their 60s and 70s, have been delivered of babies.
Even though most of such cases were more often than not a product of in-vitro fertilisation technique, popularly known as IVF.
This process involves fertilisation of eggs outside the womb in a laboratory dish or a test tube before the embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus for development.
For example, just few weeks ago, a 66-year-old woman, Mrs. Ajibola Otubusin, was reportedly delivered of her first child, a baby boy, after 40 years of marriage.
Given her age and several attempts to conceive, she said that she initially didn’t believe it was true. But, as it turned out, she had her baby.
Earlier in the year also, a 63-year-old woman, Margaret Davou, in Plateau State was reportedly delivered of a baby girl; her first in her 38 years of marriage to her husband, 67-year-old Francis.
The issue of having delay in childbirth is no doubt a global challenge. A 72-year-old Indian, Daljinder Kaur, was in 2016 reportedly delivered of a baby boy after 46 years of marriage.
Perhaps, the age of the women would justify why they had to resort to IVF, given that menopause occurs in women when they are about 50 years old, even though it also varies among individuals.
But, on the other hand, there have been instances where younger women slide into menopause, a phenomenon that is known as premature menopause.
A report released by London’s Imperial College few years ago shows that women, arguably, now seem to reach menopause earlier than it used to be in the past. The average age for menopause used to be about 60, unlike now that it seems to be about 45 years.
And given that several factors could be responsible for delay in getting pregnant, premature menopause may not be detected early. And such was the case of Janet, a 39-year-old mid-level marketer, who had been married for about 10 years.
She revealed that initially when she didn’t conceive, despite the frequent and timely S3xual intercourse with her husband, doctors told her it was stress, as she spends hours in traffic and she is oftentimes out of the office for fieldwork.
But even after quitting her job and settling for a less-paying and less-taxing one, nothing changed, which according to her prompted her to go for more comprehensive medical tests. But the results broke her heart beyond what she could comprehend.
She said, “I noticed that my period was irregular and sometimes I missed it. As you can imagine, I thought it was a good signal, but it was far from it. Anytime I had a period, it was either lighter or heavier than normal.
“After some time, I started having lower S3x drive and of course, Vag!na dryness came with it and I needed to lubricate myself anytime we were to have S3x, because as much as I was losing interest in S3x, I knew we had to do it to stand a chance. My husband also told me I had mood swings.
“At the end, I was told that I was producing less oestrogen and that I had suffered premature menopause. It was like the world ended that minute – having menopause at my age. My thoughts ran wild and I was losing it.”
After several counselling sessions and encouragement from her husband, she said she went for IVF and now has two children. “I wasn’t happy until the IVF was successful and I could see my own children,” she said.
The foregoing underscores the fact that there are women who suffer from premature menopause.
A seasoned consultant endocrinologist, Dr Michael Olamoyegun, explained that for most people, menopause age usually ranges from 50, plus or minus five years, which means it’s from 45 to 55 and some people could reach menopause at age 57.
“So, it could vary, but if it occurs before 45, that is premature menopause,” he added.
Thus, apart from age, which is primary and the most relatable, it would seem helpful to identify the factors that could make women reach menopause prematurely, some of which include:
Genetics: This is one of the factors that experts have identified as one of the causes of premature menopause. Olamoyegun explained that even though it is a potent factor, it does not mean that every woman (daughter) in a family would experience it because the mother reached menopause early. He said there was only a higher likelihood that they could follow the same pattern.
He said, “It tends to run in families and that is why we said it is genetic. However, it is not a certainty that the daughter would reach menopause at the same age the mother did, but there is a higher likelihood that the daughter would experience the same thing. However, if the daughters are prone to other medical conditions like obesity, it could increase their chance of experiencing it.”