EMW12 (Melinda)

Name: Melinda
Age at interview: 45
Diagnosis: Spontaneous early menopause
Age at diagnosis: 42

Background: Melinda works part-time as a health and wellbeing manager. She lives with her husband and their child in a metropolitan city. Melinda is from an Australian background.

About Melinda: Melinda was diagnosed with spontaneous early menopause at age 42 after an unsuccessful attempt to conceive a second child through IVF. Her symptoms included irritability, hot flushes, headaches and sleep difficulties, which subsided after her endocrinologist prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) patches. Not being able to have a second child was ‘disappointing and sad’ but Melinda feels ‘lucky’ to have had her daughter, and glad to now feel better both ‘physically and mentally.’

More about Melinda: During her late thirties, Melinda and her husband decided to try to have a child. Because of concerns about Melinda’s husband’s fertility, they underwent IVF, successfully conceiving their daughter. In the process, however, they learned Melinda’s ovarian reserve was ‘on the low side.’

Melinda described being on an ‘emotional high’ in the first year of motherhood. However, as her daughter entered toddlerhood Melinda began to often feel hot, ‘drained’ and ‘cranky,’ was sleeping poorly, and experienced frequent headaches. Looking back, she thinks these were signs of perimenopause, but at the time assumed her difficulties were related to the challenges of early parenthood.

Two years later, Melinda and her husband decided to try IVF again. After their initial cycle was unsuccessful, Melinda had an Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) test. Their fertility specialist told her the result was ‘very low,’ and that their chances of conceiving were ‘virtually zero.’ This information was ‘hard to hear,’ but Melinda and her husband did not want to use an egg donor and so stopped IVF.

Meanwhile, Melinda’s symptoms were becoming ‘more prevalent.’ Following thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) tests, her GP diagnosed her with spontaneous early menopause. Then 42, Melinda said the diagnosis brought ‘relief,’ because it explained her ‘strange symptoms’ and ‘spasmodic periods,’ and provided an understanding as to why they could not have any more children.

Melinda’s GP referred her to a ‘wonderful’ endocrinologist who recommended Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), especially for her long-term bone and heart health. She has used patches for three years, and described HRT as ‘life-changing.’ It allows her to sleep, gives her ‘the energy to exercise, to work,’ and makes her feel ‘alive.’

As Melinda has osteopenia, she also takes a vitamin D supplement and does weight-bearing exercises. Although she experienced ‘a heightened sense of [her] appearance’ after being diagnosed with early menopause, and felt ‘older’ and ‘frail,’ HRT and increased exercise has meant she now feels ‘stronger.’

Apart from her husband, mother and sister, only a couple of Melinda’s friends know about her early menopause. Because they are not ‘going through the same thing,’ she thinks there would be ‘a lack of common ground.’ Melinda is grateful for the family and professional support she has received, and is now ‘feeling happy with where [she’s] at’ and has reached ‘self-acceptance.’ She encourages women in similar situations to ‘focus on yourself and what your needs are,’ and appreciate ‘what you do have, as opposed to what you don’t.’