When does menopause start? It depends. The age of menopause can differ pretty drastically from woman to woman. While some women do experience menopause symptoms in their late fifties, others will go through them as early as 40.
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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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.
In this article: 📝
- What is menopause?
- What is the normal age for menopause?
- What are the stages of 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.
What is the normal age for menopause?
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 the 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.
That’s why doctors refer to the three stages of menopause:
What are the stages of menopause?
The 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 the 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.
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.
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.
📚 More on menopause from The 411:
Introducing, Peanut Menopause
What Happens During Menopause?
How to Deal With Menopause
What to Know About Menopause Joint Pain
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Painful Sex After Menopause? What to Know
Hot Flashes: Causes, Symptoms, and What to Do
Unusual Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Know
Why Are My Breasts Getting Bigger After Menopause?
Menopause Fatigue: What to Know and What to Do
What to Do About Menopause Bloating
Evening Primrose Oil & Menopause: What’s the Story?
Menopause and Sleep: What’s the Link?
How to Deal With Menopause Headaches
Menopause and Constipation: What’s the Link?
Menopause and Hair Loss: What to Know
Ovary Pain During Menopause: All Key Info
What are the 34 Symptoms of Menopause?
What to Know: Menopause and Breast Pain
What are the Signs Perimenopause is Ending?
What Are The Benefits of Progesterone After Menopause?