As if being the first girl in your friend group to get your period wasn’t frustrating enough, new research shows that your first period might affect when you start menopause. The study, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction this week, found that women who begin menstruating at age 11 or younger are 80 percent more likely to have premature menopause.
Premature menopause, which means hitting menopause before the age of 40, is accompanied by a wide variety of seriously unpleasant — and often painful — symptoms including hot flashes, fatigue, and bone loss.
But there are also more dangerous implications for women who experience premature menopause — it increases their risk for serious illnesses such as polycystic ovary syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and endometriosis.
Researchers emphasize that women who began menstruating at an early age should be aware of the potential health risks.
The study also found that women who got their first period at age 11 or younger are at an increased risk for premature menopause if they haven’t given birth, compared to those who have one or more children. However, it’s unclear whether this is directly related to the age of a woman’s first period; it could also be because these women couldn’t give birth due to ovarian problems that lead to early menopause.
Getting your period at an early age doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to experience health problems the moment you hit menopause — but it does mean you should be mindful of your health. That can just be having ongoing conversations with your doctor about how to effectively combat the potential health risks.