A large international study has linked early puberty and childlessness with an increased risk of early menopause.
A study from the University of Queensland found women who had their first period before the age of 11 were 80% more likely to experience premature or early menopause.
“This is important information because we know these women have a higher risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis,” Professor Gita Mishra said.
Nearly one in 10 women experience premature menopause (a final menstrual period before the age of 40), or early menopause (final period between the ages of 40 and 44 years).
UQ School of Public Health researcher Professor Mishra said the risk of early or premature menopause was doubled in women who did not have children compared to those who had two or more children.
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“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.”
The study considered childlessness as an indicator of underlying fertility issues because the women involved were from an era when general fertility was high and there was little access to infertility treatments.
“We have to be cautious of generational differences but the results are relevant to younger generations of women where we are seeing increasingly early onset of puberty,” Professor Mishra said.
“Rather than being fatalistic about it, women who began puberty early can be empowered by this knowledge; they can talk to their GPs and take action early to improve their health outcomes in later life.”