Twins and Menopause
Are you a twin? If so, then you may be unhappy to hear that twin sisters are have a greater chance of undergoing premature menopause. Recent studies performed in Europe and North America seem to confirm that twins are more likely to go through menopause at a younger age than women who aren't twins. Though in the early stages of study, this information could prove helpful in determining at what age a woman might begin to lose her fertility.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a stage of life that every woman must go through. You may have heard it referred to as "The Change" or "The Curse." Menopause is actually a hormonal change that occurs in all women. It causes you to stop ovulating and to lose your period. Menopause doesn't happen overnight. Instead, it is a slow and gradual change marked by various stages. Most women begin to go through menopause around the age of 50, though some women will enter into it at earlier or later ages.
What is Premature Menopause?
Premature menopause is defined as menopause occurring before the age of 40. It is often confused with early menopause, which is defined as menopause occurring before the age of 45. Many women experience premature or early menopause, and this can happen for different reasons. Common causes of premature menopause include:
- surgical menopause
- certain cancer treatments
- premature ovarian failure
The Twin Studies
Recently, various studies have been undertaken in an attempt to illustrate when menopause occurs in twins. These studies were spurred on by a number of reports of twin females around the world undergoing premature menopause. The studies aimed to find out when twins tend to begin the menopausal process and the reasons behind it.
Two major studies have recently presented information on twins and menopause. The first study was performed on British and Australian twins. 850 female twins participated in the study, including 418 identical twins and 432 non-identical twins. A separate study was also conducted at Cornell University in the United States, consisting of 1700 identical and non-identical twins.
What the Studies Found
The results of these two studies were actually quite startling for many in the medical field. Both studies concluded that female twins do seem to undergo menopause earlier than women in the general population. In fact, twins were up to five times more likely to undergo premature menopause than women who were not twins. The both studies found that:
- up to 5% of female twins had gone through menopause by age 40
- up to 15% of female twins had experienced menopause by age 45
Usually, by age 40, only about 1% of the general female population has experienced any menopause symptoms, and by 45, only 5% have begun menopause. Moreover, the studies also showed that both identical and fraternal twins were equally likely to undergo premature menopause. Yet, typically only one twin out of each pair involved in the studies actually experienced premature menopause.
Causes of Premature Menopause in Twins
You may be wondering why twins are more likely than women without a twin to undergo premature menopause. Well, researchers are also eager to find an answer to this question. Unfortunately, there has not been enough research into the topic to find a valid cause for this early menopause phenomenon. A number of possible factors influencing early menopause have been theorized, though, including:
- the lower weight of twins at birth
- a change in epigenetics (the way your body reads your genetic code)
- the unequal splitting of the embryo during division
What are the Complications of Premature Menopause?
Unfortunately, premature menopause come with its own set of obstacles. Women who undergo premature menopause generally have to deal with more severe menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and mood swings. Early menopause also puts you at increased risk for:
What About Male Twins?
With these findings of decreased fertility in female twins, questions as to whether the fertility of male twins also suffers an early decline have been raised. There has been no real evidence to show that male twins are at risk for losing their fertility earlier than men without twins. However, more studies need to be done to investigate this further.
How Can the Twin Study Information Be Used?
Though the twin study can seem like bad news for all you twins out there, it may actually prove helpful to you in the long run. Continued research in the area of twins and premature menopause could help researchers develop markers for women at risk of premature fertility loss. These markers may one day help to identify women who are at risk of premature menopause. These markers might also help women decide when to begin planning and adding to their families.