Chemical Menopause --- Top 7 Side
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November 18, 2013, last updated November 25, 2014
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and
other members of our Editorial Board.]

Menopause is a natural, often difficult, stage in a woman’s
life when your monthly periods end. Menopause usually
occurs naturally in your 40s or 50s when your ovaries stop
producing estrogen. But sometimes menopause makes an
appearance after chemotherapy or as a result of taking
certain drugs and medications.

Most women don’t welcome menopause but it can be
particularly distressing when it comes early through chemical
means. A diagnosis of cancer can be doubly devastating
when the treatment could prevent you from ever getting
pregnant again. Why do some women experience chemical
menopause? What does chemical menopause do to your
body – are the side effects the same as natural menopause?  

What Causes Chemical Menopause?

According to experts such as the scientists at
Universitaetsklinikum Giessen and Marburg GmbH, Standort
Giessen, Germany (2013), “undesirable side effects of
surgery (for cancer), chemotherapy, and/or radiation can be
premature ovarian failure or even premature menopause.”

Some chemotherapy drugs harm your ovaries. If your
ovaries cease to work, wel,l they stop making hormones.
When this happens, your periods may become irregular or
stop and you suffer side effects associated with menopause.

If you have no periods following chemotherapy it is known
as chemical menopause. Medications that suppress ovulation
– which women take to treat severe PMS or Premenstrual
Dysphoric Disorder – may also induce a chemical menopause.

Women who have sever endometriosis sometimes are
prescribed medications such as Lupron to induce chemical

In addition, environmental chemicals have also been linked
with early, chemical menopause. A 2011 study by the West
Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown
discovered that higher levels of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in
the body are associated with increased odds of experiencing

The researchers looked at women aged between aged 18
and 65 years. They found that women aged between 42 and
64 years old with high levels of PFCs had significantly lower
levels of estrogen than women with low levels of the
chemical. PFCs are found in a variety of items around the
house like paint, food packaging, carpets, and clothes.  

How Many Women Suffer From Chemical Menopause?

It is not certain how many women undergoing
chemotherapy or who are being exposed to chemicals will
suffer from chemical menopause, which makes it difficult to
quantify the risks associated with these factors.

A variety of studies have arrived at different incidence
levels.  For example, an Italian study (2011) from Nazionale
per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy found the rate of
early menopause was 25.9 percent in a group of women
who had chemotherapy following breast cancer.  

Menopause rates following combination chemotherapy range
from 21 to 71 percent in women aged 40 and younger, and
from 40 to 100 percent in women above the age of 40
according to a 2007 study from the University of Pisa, Italy.

A 1999 study from the University of Cincinnati College of
Medicine, Ohio discovered that irregularities with the
menstrual cycle were common after breast cancer patients
were treated with chemotherapy and that 30 percent of
patients had their periods stop one year after chemotherapy

While the risk of chemical menopause is high, not all
physicians adequately communicate the risk of chemical
menopause to women undergoing chemotherapy, according
to a 2013 study from Harvard Medical School, the National
Institute of Nursing Research, Yale University School of
Public Health, and Rollins School of Public Health.

Seventy-one percent of oncologists reported awareness of
premature menopause as a long-term side effect of
chemotherapy, but only 15 percent of primary care providers
did the same.  

This is not ideal.  The side effects of chemical menopause are

Here we look at most common side effects associated with
chemical menopause, which are similar to the effects felt by
women undergoing a natural, age-induced menopause.

Top 7 Side Effects of Chemical Menopause

1. Infertility Following Chemical Menopause

Could chemical menopause actually cause infertility?
Possibly. According to the Breast Cancer Resource Directory
of North Carolina, because chemotherapy drugs damage the
ovaries you may not be able to get pregnant even when you
have recovered and stopped chemotherapy treatment.

However, some women resume their natural cycle. According
to a 2007 study from the University of Pisa, Italy, 40 percent
of women aged 40 or younger got their periods back, while
the chemical menopause was more likely to be irreversible in
older women.  

Also, if you are younger you have a better chance of being
able to get pregnant following a chemical menopause.

A 2007 study by The Methodist Hospital and Baylor College
of Medicine, Houston, Texas found women aged 40 and
younger often resumed menstruation as little as six months
following a chemical menopause.  

Hot Flashes and the Chemical Menopause

Hot flashes are a distressing and uncomfortable side effect of
chemical menopause, no matter what age you are.

The National Institute on Aging says to minimize the
discomfort of
hot flashes, find out if there is a specific trigger
for the symptom, such as stress, alcohol, hot drinks, or
caffeine. Avoid possible triggers to cut the incidence of hot

You can also try sleeping in a cool room, dressing in layers,
and wearing cotton and other natural fibers.

Acupuncture is said to help cut the risk of hot flash flare-ups,
according to a 2010 study from the Korea Institute of
Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, South Korea and a 2009 report
from the University of Tromso, Norway.

Chemical Menopause Causes Night Sweats

When it comes to night sweats – hot flashes striking while
you sleep – acupuncture is also helpful, according to
research from Stanford University. The 2006 study led by Dr.
M. Huang discovered that seven weeks of treatment cut the
risk of night sweats by 28 percent as compared to 6 percent
following fake acupuncture treatment.  

You may also want to try cognitive behavioral therapy.
According to a 2013 study from the Institute of Psychiatry,
King's College London, London, UK cognitive behavior
therapy reduced the impact of night sweats and hot flashes
regardless of the women’s age or menopause status.  (Read
more about
natural remedies for night sweats.)

Chemical Menopause Results in Sleep Problems

It’s a fact that the hormonal changes that go along with
chemical menopause play havoc with your sleep patterns.

You can do something to help yourself sleep better – get into
a sleep pattern; go to bed every night at the same time and
get up at the same time. Don’t spend too long in bed in the
morning after you wake up.

And you may want to try valerian or lemon balm. A 2013
study from Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran,
Iran puts forward valerian or lemon balm for use during
menopause when suffering from sleep disorders.
Researchers found reduced levels of sleeping disorders in
the group of women taking the natural remedy.  (Read more
natural remedies to improve your sleep quality.)

Vaginal Dryness is a Side Effect of Chemical Menopause

The lack of estrogen also affects the lining of the vagina
after chemical menopause, causing vaginal dryness and
making sexual activity uncomfortable.

To relieve this side effect following chemotherapy, use water-
based personal lubricants or moisturizers. You can also take
low-dose estrogen to relieve dryness.

A 2003 study from the University of Gottingen, Germany
showed black cohosh had an estrogen-like effect on the cells
in the wall of the vagina. Researchers believe that black
cohosh could therefore be used by women suffering from
vaginal dryness after menopause.(Read more
remedies for vaginal dryness.)

Issues with Sexual Arousal and Activity Due to Chemical

Lack of estrogen may also cause you to lose interest in sex
and can make arousal more difficult. Drugs, sex therapy or
counseling, and topical treatments have been put forward as
solutions and one study showed yoga can be helpful.

The 2013 study from the University of Washington School of
Medicine, Seattle measured quality of life for women after
menopause and discovered that a weekly 90-minute yoga
class plus at-home practice helped improve sexuality for post-
menopausal women.  

Chemical Menopause and Osteoporosis  

Going through an early menopause puts you at greater risk
fro developing
osteoporosis at an earlier age. Women lose
bone faster after menopause due to the lack of estrogen,
meaning osteoporosis and the associated risk of bone
breakage and fractures is a threat.

Early menopause requires even greater attention to how
much calcium you are consuming every day. The National
Institutes of Health recommends 1,200 mg of calcium a day
for people aged 31 to 50. If you are over 50 you should get
1,500 mg of calcium each day. Drink milk and consume low
fat dairy. Calcium is also found in salmon and sardines, dark
green leafy vegetables, orange juice fortified with calcium,
and fortified bread products. (Read more about
remedies for osteoporosis.)

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Lemon balm herb can help relieve
sleep problems associated with
chemical menopause.