Signs of early menopause

signs of early menopause

In this article we cover the signs of early menopause and premature menopause, what age early menopause and premature menopause occur, as well as the key causes.

What is menopause?

Menopause is a single point in time that marks 12 months after your last menstrual period. This typically occurs between the ages of 45-55.  

Prior to this you are in perimenopause, the 2-12 year period before menopause, meaning that it can occur around the age of late 30’s to early 40’s. 

Even though menopause itself is a moment in time, the symptoms associated with menopause can be long lasting. 

When is menopause considered ‘early’?

Although 45-55 is the typical age for menopause, for some it can occur earlier than this. 

If menopause is reached before 45 it is called early menopause, but if it occurs before the age of 40 it is called premature menopause. 

An early menopause before the age of 45 occurs is about 5% of the population, whereas a premature menopause before the age of 40 occurs in about 1% of women under 40 and 0.1% of woman under 30. 

what age early menopause

The most common causes of early and premature menopause

The most common causes of early and premature menopause is the cessation of normal functioning ovaries. This can be sure to a number of different risk factors and contributing factors including the following:

  • Smoking 
  • Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
  • Oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries)
  • Family history of early or premature menopause 
  • A side effect of chemo or radiation treatment 
  • Stress or a traumatic event 
  • Underlying autoimmune diseases 

What is primary ovarian insufficiency ?

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is the term given there is no obvious medical or surgical reason for the ovaries to stop functioning properly. 

Those with POI can still have sporadic ovulation and bleeding, therefore it is no longer termed primary ovarian failure.

Signs of early menopause

Research has shown that those experiencing premature or early menopause are more likely to experience more distressing symptoms than those experiencing natural menopause

There are also greater risks of health complications such as osteoporosis and heart disease in those who experience early or premature menopause.

The 10 most common signs of early menopause or premature menopause

 Hot flushes – Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms in menopause. They can feel like flushing or tingling and some women even experience shivering too. This is due to the hypothalamus in the brain becoming hypersensitive to temperature changes.

Night sweats – It can be common in both perimenopause and menopause to suffer from night sweats. This can in turn disrupt sleep and impact energy levels during the day. 

Libido changes – Fluctuating hormones in perimenopause and the eventual lowering of sex hormones in menopause can result in libido changes. 

Anxiety – Anxiety can begin in perimenopause due to the drop in progesterone. This can continue into menopause too. 

Weight gain – Weight gain around the middle is common in perimenopause and menopause. This is due to the lowering of oestrogen changing fat distribution in the body. 

Vaginal dryness – Vaginal dryness or pain during sex is a common symptom due to lowering oestrogen levels. 

Memory difficulties – Due to the lowering of oestrogen and therefore as a result the lowering of choline, memory can be impacted in menopause. 

Trouble sleeping – Trouble falling asleep ir staying asleep is a common feature in menopause. There are several reasons for this, for some women increased anxiety, night sweats, hot flushes can impact sleep quality. 

Fatigue – low energy is a common experience in menopause, this can be related to external stress, disturbed sleep or stress caused by symptoms. 

Irregular periods – Irregular periods are common and normal in the lead up to menopause. This can be experienced as an initial shortening of cycles under 21 days, then the eventual lengthening of cycles until they are up to 60 days apart and then the cessation of cycles completely. 

Read more about the 34 common symptoms of menopause. 

Other causes of missing periods

It is important to check with your healthcare provider if you have any of the symptoms of menopause or perimenopuase or you have missing periods. They will likley test your FSH and estradiol to assess if you may be in early or premature menopause.  

If it is not actually menopause or perimenopause then it may be hypothalamic amenorrhea (missing periods) due to other factors such as pregnancy, stress, weight loss, thyroid imbalance, PCOS, under eating or over exercising. 

Read about the common causes of missing periods.

Is it early perimenopause?

If you are getting some of the following new symptoms then it may be suggestive of early perimenopause (the 2-12 years before your final period and menopause). 

  • Heavy and/or longer periods
  • Shorter cycles – 25 days or less
  • New sore or swollen breasts
  • Mid-sleep waking
  • Increased period pain
  • Night sweats, particularly premenstrually
  • New or increased migraine headaches
  • New or increased premenstrual mood swings
  • Weight gain without changes in exercise or eating.

Read about the four stages of perimenopause.

If you are suffering from any signs of irregular cycles or hormone imbalance then our FUTURE WOMAN tests may be able to shed light on exactly what is happening with your hormones and across your cycle. Book in a FREE 15 minute consultation with one of our women’s health experts to find out more about our tests and whether they are right for you HERE

References

Gallagher J. C. (2007). Effect of early menopause on bone mineral density and fractures. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 14(3 Pt 2), 567–571. https://doi.org/10.1097/gme.0b013e31804c793d

Huang, Y., Qi, T., Ma, L., Li, D., Li, C., Lan, Y., Chu, K., Chen, P., Xu, W., Cao, Y., Ying, Q., Xu, L., & Zhou, J. (2021). Menopausal symptoms in women with premature ovarian insufficiency: prevalence, severity, and associated factors. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 28(5), 529–537. https://doi.org/10.1097/GME.0000000000001733

NHS UK (2022). Early Menopause. Retreived from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/early-menopause/

NHS Inform (2022). Early and Premature Menopause. Retreived from https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/sexual-and-reproductive/the-menopause/overview-of-the-menopause/early-and-premature-menopause

Peacock K, Ketvertis KM. Menopause. [Updated 2022 Feb 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507826/

Svejme, O., Ahlborg, H. G., Nilsson, J. Å., & Karlsson, M. K. (2012). Early menopause and risk of osteoporosis, fracture and mortality: a 34-year prospective observational study in 390 women. BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology, 119(7), 810–816. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03324.x

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