EMW27 (Jenni)

Name: Jenni
Age at interview: 44
Diagnosis: Spontaneous Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
Age at diagnosis: 37

Background: Jenni works part-time in children and family services. She lives in a regional town, and is from an Australian background.

About Jenni: Jenni began experiencing hot flushes, night sweats and memory problems at 32, but despite seeking help from many different doctors was not tested for or diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) until age 37. Immediately afterwards, Jenni tried IVF, but unfortunately without success. She was also diagnosed with endometriosis at 33, adenomyosis at 39, and had a hysterectomy to treat these at 40. Unable to tolerate systemic Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), Jenni uses vaginal oestrogen.

More about Jenni: Since her first menstrual period, Jenni experienced ‘constant’ bleeding and pelvic pain, and was prescribed the oral contraceptive pill to help manage this. At 20, a doctor tested her hormone levels and, finding them low, advised Jenni she may have difficulties conceiving in future.

With this advice ‘in the back of [her] mind,’ when Jenni at 32 began experiencing hot flushes, night sweats, ‘memory problems,’ and irritability, she asked her GP if these might be symptoms of premature menopause, but was told she was ‘too young’ and was experiencing ‘just stress.’

After her symptoms worsened, Jenni’s GP referred her to a specialist clinic, where a gynaecologist diagnosed her with endometriosis, but her ‘hormone issues’ were not investigated. Over the following years, Jenni saw various doctors about her symptoms, but felt none took her concerns ‘seriously.’ Finally, at 37, a fertility specialist diagnosed her with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). She also asked Jenni if she wanted to try IVF, on the condition that she start quickly.

Jenni described simultaneously being diagnosed with early menopause and offered IVF as ‘mind-blowing.’ The diagnosis confirmed that her ‘gut was right all along,’ but years of not feeling ‘believed’ had left her ‘a lot of self-doubt.’ Having children was also ‘the only thing’ Jenni had ‘really wanted in life,’ so she decided to try IVF, though she knew the ‘odds’ were ‘pretty low.’

Jenni spent two years trying IVF, but without success, making it a ‘sad and difficult’ experience that also left her ‘financially bereft.’ After IVF, Jenni tried different types of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), however experienced migraines and could only tolerate the occasional use of vaginal oestrogen. She has osteopenia and feels ‘naïve’ about the long-term implications of early menopause.

At 40, Jenni had a hysterectomy for her endometriosis and adenomyosis (diagnosed in her late 30s). Physically it was ‘the best thing’ she had done, but its ‘finality’ led to ‘huge emotional fallout.’ Now post-menopausal, Jenni is still grappling with the profound ‘grief’ and ‘social isolation impact’ of early menopause and childlessness. Around friends and colleagues, all of whom have children, Jenni has often felt ‘excluded’ or ‘marginalised.’

Jenni has found an online support group for involuntarily childless women helpful and is close to her nieces and friends’ children, but has yet to find an avenue for face-to-face support. She believes that she might have had a chance of having a child had she been diagnosed sooner, and advises other young women experiencing menopausal symptoms to ‘trust your gut’ and keep searching until you ‘get the answers that you need.’