The thought of going through early menopause might not be super exciting. We get it. Menopause and getting older in general can be intimidating, but it’s part of our natural life cycle as women and doesn’t have to be something to fear.
In a nutshell, menopause is when you stop getting your period. It happens to all women, and the average age to reach menopause (having 12 consecutive months without a period) is around 51. Early menopause only happens to a small percentage of women, but it signals a big change at an uncommon time of life, so it can be a struggle to deal with.
So how early can menopause start? And what are the early menopause symptoms to look out for? We’ve rounded up the most important info for you.
In this article: 📝
- What is the earliest age for menopause?
- Can I start menopause at 35?
- How do you know if you’re going through early menopause?
- What triggers early menopause?
- What are the concerns with going through early menopause?
- Is there treatment for early menopause?
What is the earliest age for menopause?
Believe it or not, menopause can occur anytime starting in our teenage years. There have been reports of girls as young as 11 experiencing menopause! However, this is so rare that when “early menopause” is referenced, it usually means reaching menopause between 41-45 years of age.
Can I start menopause at 35?
Technically yes, although it’s uncommon. Whereas “early menopause” happens between 41 and 45 years old, premature menopause, sometimes medically referred to as “primary ovarian insufficiency,” is when a woman reaches menopause before age 40. It occurs in around 1% of the female population and can happen all of a sudden with no obvious cause.
How do you know if you’re going through early menopause?
There are many signs of early menopause, so you will probably know if it’s happening to you. Also, you might want to read about perimenopause (symptoms that can occur in the months or years before actual menopause) to see if that might be what you’re experiencing.
So, what are the early signs of menopause? They include:
- Irregular bleeding — this may be two periods in one month, then no period for two months, periods that last longer or less time than usual, or spotting between periods.
- Hot flashes, cold flashes, and night sweats.
- Mood swings or depression.
- A loss of libido and vaginal dryness (which can cause painful sex).
- Trouble sleeping.
- Thinning or loss of hair.
- Rapid weight gain or loss.
- Loss of bladder control (urinary urgency or incontinence).
- Extremely dry skin.
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) or the symptoms of a UTI without an underlying infection.
- Headaches, temporary memory loss, and trouble concentrating.
If you are experiencing early menopause signs, it’s worth a trip to the doctor. They will likely discuss your symptoms and family history and take a blood test or test your hormone levels to confirm your diagnosis.
What triggers early menopause?
Early onset menopause can be triggered by surgery, as a side-effect to medical treatments, or as a result of diseases or disorders. It can also happen with no known cause. Sometimes your family history can be an indicator of the age you’ll go through menopause.
So, what causes early menopause?
These are the most common causes of early menopause:
Genetics — your family history can play a big part in your early menopause age. Asking your mother, grandmother, or older sisters when they transitioned through menopause will give you a good indication of your own menopause timeline. If you have a clear family history of early menopause, you will likely experience the same.
Surgery — If you have a bilateral oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) you will experience menopause immediately. If you have a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) without removal of the ovaries, you might not go into menopause right away, but you will likely experience menopause at an earlier age.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments for cancers can cause damage to the reproductive system, which can trigger premature or early menopause.
Chromosomal abnormalities — such as Turner syndrome, pure gonadal dysgenesis, or fragile X syndrome
Autoimmune diseases — like lupus, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or Crohn’s disease
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis)
Lifestyle factors — including smoking (smokers may experience menopause one to two years earlier than non-smokers), and having a very low BMI (since estrogen is stored in fat tissue)
What are the concerns with going through early menopause?
With couples waiting longer to have children, it might happen that a woman goes through premature or early menopause before she’s had a chance to have a baby. Since menopause symptoms sometimes start up to four years before your period officially stops, a woman with premature menopause might start ovulating irregularly in her early 30’s, which could make it more difficult to get pregnant.
Additionally, the hormone estrogen is vital to keeping our heart, bones, and brain healthy. Menopause decreases estrogen, so early menopause can mean that a woman experiences the effects of decreased estrogen for a longer portion of her life, thus increasing the likelihood of certain diseases.
Is there treatment for early menopause?
Women who experience premature menopause or early onset menopause will often be offered hormone treatment, such as HRT or a contraceptive pill, to boost estrogen levels until the woman reaches the average age of menopause (the early 50s).
This can help ward off some menopausal symptoms and can reduce the risk of developing conditions associated with prematurely low estrogen levels, like heart disease, dementia, or osteoporosis. However, these treatments do come with their own pros and cons, so it’s worth having a full discussion with your physician before making a decision.
If you think you’re experiencing early menopause, give your doctor a call. You’re not alone, and there’s no need to be afraid!