When does menopause start? That changes from woman to woman, but the average age for menopause is 51. Here’s everything you need to know.
When does menopause start? It depends.
The age of menopause can differ pretty drastically from woman to woman, and it’s not like there’s a guaranteed menopause age calculator out there.
While some women do experience menopause symptoms in their late fifties, others will go through them as early as 40.
But what is the average age of menopause? And how do you know when menopause starts?
Here, we’ve got answers to questions on one of the biggest changes your body goes through.
This article was reviewed and fact-checked by Dr. Fionnuala Barton.
Dr. Fionnuala Barton is a GP, Women’s Health Doctor, and registered member of the British Menopause Society.
She is passionate about optimizing physical and emotional wellness for women at all stages of life and has a particular interest in early recognition and management of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, POI, PMS, and PMDD.
Dr. Barton is the founder of The Menopause Medic, an independent women’s hormone health clinic that aims to provide empathetic, holistic, personalized, proactive, evidence-based women’s hormone health consultations.
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In this article: 📝
- What is menopause?
- At what age does menopause start?
- How do you know when menopause starts?
- What are the 3 stages of menopause?
- Can you predict when menopause will start?
- How do you test for menopause?
- Recap: When does menopause start?
What is menopause?
Reaching menopause means you stop having periods, and you’re no longer able to get pregnant.
It happens naturally, as your ovaries stop making as much of the hormones – estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone – that keep menstruation going.
These hormones will usually decrease gradually from around your late 30s onwards, but the actual “thing” we call menopause will come a little later on.
At what age does menopause start?
According to the North American Menopause Society, the average age for menopause is 51.
But these averages tend to hide all sorts of nuances and differences.
Most women will usually experience menopause sometime between the ages of 40 and 58 – although it is possible for it to start sooner – and later, too.
By the way, menopause can start much earlier – which can of course be really distressing for women who want to become mothers.
No one quite knows what causes early menopause, but about one in 100 women experience menopause before the age of 40.
So, can periods just stop at 49? Yes, they can.
But usually, menopause is more of a gradual thing than a sudden stop, with periods becoming lighter and/or less regular over a couple of years.
What is the average age women’s periods stop?
It can take some time for your periods to stop completely, while you’re in perimenopause (or pre-menopause).
Generally, some women’s periods start to get irregular in their late 40s, before coming to a stop at about 51.
How do you know when menopause starts?
So how do you know when you’re experiencing menopause?
Well, perimenopause symptoms include irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, and night sweats (to name a few).
It then changes to menopause when you haven’t had a period in 12 months.
But if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms that could be menopausal or perimenopausal, it can be worth speaking with a doctor, just in case it’s something else.
After all, the symptoms of menopause are very varied and change from person to person, so everyone’s journey of menopause is different.
What are the 3 stages of menopause?
As we’ve briefly mentioned, there are three stages to menopause: perimenopause (or pre-menopause), menopause, and postmenopause.
Menopause begins with a stretch of about three to five years when your fertility hormones are slowly declining.
It usually happens in your late 40s, but can happen before or after.
During perimenopause, you may experience some of the classic symptoms of menopause starting, such as:
- Hot flushes
- Sleep disturbances
- Elevated heart rate
- Irritability, anxiety, and depression
- Vaginal dryness and sometimes discomfort during sex
Every woman is unique.
While some women will experience all of the symptoms, others won’t experience any at all.
That’s totally normal.
But be aware that even though menopause is starting, it may still be possible to get pregnant at this stage.
What are the 1st signs of menopause?
It can change from person to person.
But generally, most of our women in the Peanut menopause community first experienced hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and irregular periods.
What is the average age of perimenopause?
While perimenopause can start for some women in their mid to late 30s, the average age is between 40-47.
It’s quite a wide range for an average, but because the symptoms can last for a few years without being detected, it can be tricky to pinpoint exactly when perimenopause starts.
Technically, it is defined as the “moment” when you’ve gone 12 months without having a period.
When does menopause start?
Most women will go through the second stage of menopause at around the age of 51 – ish.
Again, it depends.
The third stage of menopause starts after a year since your last period.
This is when all those symptoms might start to subside.
But your body still has a few things to throw at you at this stage – and you may experience menopause symptoms like hot flushes, vaginal dryness, and interrupted sleep for up to a year before things become steady again.
Can you predict when menopause will start?
Not really, but there are some theories that you could start menopause around the same time your mother did.
However, there can also be “random events” in your DNA that cause earlier or later menopause, so it’s hard to tell.
There may also be some lifestyle and medical factors that can impact when menopause starts for you ‒ such as smoking, cancer treatments, or ovarian surgery.
Do periods stop suddenly with menopause?
Not often, but it has been known to happen.
According to the UK NHS, most perimenopausal women experience irregular periods ‒ a common indicator of menopause is having 3 missed periods without being pregnant.
However, they also mention that for some women, periods can stop suddenly and not return ‒ a bit of an abrupt start to menopause.
How do you test for menopause?
There aren’t really any accurate ways to test for menopause.
While tests that track your FSH levels claim to test for menopause, they’re not often accurate, as our FSH levels fluctuate at different points in our menstrual cycles.
Ultimately, the best way to “test” for menopause is to keep track of any unusual symptoms and visit your doctor.
And if you haven’t had a period for 12 months (and you’re not pregnant), then it sounds like you’re experiencing menopause.
Recap: When does menopause start?
Menopause usually starts around the age of 51 (according to the stats).
But you may well have been experiencing menopause symptoms – hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, irritability – for a few years already by that point.
That’s totally normal, and it’s thanks to your declining hormone levels during that period known as perimenopause.
The experience of menopause can be challenging for all sorts of reasons.
If you have concerns, you can always meet with your healthcare provider.
And with the Peanut community, you can meet, chat, and learn from like-minded women day and night.
We’re here to support you.