Zaheera was in the final year of college and her parents had started hunting for a groom. But before the match could be fixed, the 20-year-old Kashmiri girl complained of irregular menstruation. Her mother took her to the country’s leading gynaecologist, Dr Feruza Parikh, for a check up.
The diagnosis left them stumped. Zaheera was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (POF), also known as premature menopause.
“It was difficult to break the news,” said Parikh, a Mumbai-based doctor, who runs a special clinic in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Parikh said she decided to open the clinic in Kashmir in 2003 after several young Kashmiri Muslim girls with a similar medical condition landed up in Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital, where she heads the department of assisted reproduction and genetics.
Premature menopause, an irreversible condition, rules out any possibility of pregnancy and causes hormonal imbalances from an early age. “I have broken this painful news to a 17 year old as well,” said Parikh.
During her last visit to the Valley on November 23, in a single day Parikh claimed to have examined 80 women, of which eight were suffering from premature ovarian failure or showed signs of imminent menopause.
Abida Rehman (25) was one of them. Three months into her marriage, Rehman stopped getting her periods. Excited that she may be pregnant, Rehman underwent tests, which revealed that she had very small ovaries and had already slipped into premature menopause. Another patient was Ayub Razzak’s second wife.
The 29-year-old woman was detected with premature menopause. Razak, 36, had re-married after his first wife was diagnosed with the same problem at the age of 32. Parikh said the most common reason for premature menopause could be “autoimmunity”.