If we could answer the question – what age does menopause start? – life would be very different for millions of women!
But it’s an important question because it affects at least 50 percent of the population. What’s more, it’s estimated that 1.2 billion women will be in menopause or post-menopause by 2030.
What age does menopause start? It’s not linear.
Because menopause isn’t linear there’s no definitive answer. Indeed, every woman is different and there are different stages of menopause.
For this reason, age can only act as a broad definition. In addition, factors such as lifestyle, smoking, weight, education, ethnicity and genetics can all play a significant role. As well as that, specific nutrients have also been found to be part of the puzzle.
Moreover, we’re speaking about natural menopause. So this doesn’t cover surgical menopause, early menopause or premature menopause caused by what’s known as premature ovarian insufficiency.
However, there are things we can look at with regard to ‘what age does menopause start?’ With this purpose in mind, we’ll look at the different stages along with the averages, trends and statistics of natural menopause.
What is menopause?
Menopause literally means final menstrual period.
As you grow older, your ovaries produce less of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. As a result, period flow and regularity can become unpredictable and a host of mental, physical and emotional signs may begin.
Eventually, periods stop altogether as ovarian production shuts down and menopause itself occurs on the last day of your last period.
And when you’ve gone 12 months without menstruating you’re officially in menopause.
So, at what age does menopause begin?
On average, natural menopause can begin as early as the late ’30s/age 40 or not until the mid-late 50s.
However, up to four percent of women will go into premature menopause before 40. This is known as premature ovarian insufficiency and can be due to genetics, autoimmune, metabolic conditions, and surgical/chemotherapy reasons.
Then again, the reasons may be unclear in some cases.
What age does premenopause start?
From onset of menstruation through to the mid to late 30s.
During the later stages of premenopause, very subtle shifts in sex hormones can occur – usually a drop in progesterone. This often begins around 35.
It’s important to realise that the steps you take in premenopause can affect your overall menopause experience. Significant moves include making lifestyle choices such as eating whole foods, avoiding processed foods, moving regularly and stopping smoking.
What age does perimenopause start?
Average: around 40-44
Peri means ‘around menopause’ and is when you begin to make the transition into menopause. On average, perimenopause starts sometime in the 40s. Again, speaking in averages, it lasts for around four years but can go on for over a decade. Certainly, factors such as smoking can play a part in how long perimenopause lasts.
Moreover, some women can go into early menopause at this time and that is defined as 40-45.
Changes in period frequency or flow may be the first changes you notice which is why so many women can confuse perimenopause with pregnancy.
As you move through perimenopause you may notice more signs and symptoms caused by an imbalance of your lower progesterone levels and your estrogen fluctuations.
In fact, this can sometimes lead to estrogen dominance.
The characteristic signs of perimenopause are generally a result of hormones fluctuating. In light of this, blood tests measuring estrogen or FSH are considered unreliable by The Australasian Menopause Society.
On the other hand, hormone testing is recommended for cases of suspected premature or early menopause.
Signs and symptoms of perimenopause include:
- Tender breasts
- Heavy periods
- Mood swings
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Disrupted sleep
- Hair thinning
- Lack of libido
- Brain fog
- Heart palpitations
- Bladder incontinence
- Aches and pains
- Dry vagina
- Weight gain
What age does menopause start?
On average: approximately 51
If you’re still menstruating, your ovarian estrogen levels are probably very low and it’s unlikely you’re still releasing eggs.
When this happens, your adrenals (small walnut glands that sit atop the kidneys) step in to take up the slack producing small quantities of estrogen. One reason looking after your adrenals is key during menopause.
The adrenals primary role is to regulate cortisol/adrenaline and the famous fight or flight response along with your sleep/wake cycle. So, if we’re stressed it will prioritise the former..
You’re officially in menopause when you’ve gone 12 months without a period.
What age does post-menopause start?
On average: around 51-55
By the age of 55, most women will have gone through menopause and be in post-menopause. Fortunately, many of the signs and symptoms you experience in the lead up should diminish or disappear. Although some women will experience them on an ongoing basis.
When can premature & early menopause start?
Although similar, there can be intrinsic differences in the definitions of premature and early menopause.
We briefly touched on them above, but the definitions include:
- average age of natural premature menopause: 30s
- average age of natural early menopause: 40-45
The symptoms are similar to those of perimenopause but as a rule, you should check with your doctor if you’ve missed more than three consecutive periods.
Lastly, the causes of both premature and early menopause can also be the same and include:
Menopause triggered by surgery includes hysterectomy with ovarian removal (oophorectomy) and cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy. In these cases, it can occur at any age.
If you go through surgical menopause you will go into menopause immediately and experience a lot of the same signs and symptoms as natural menopause.
Unfortunately, in the case of premature, early and surgical menopause sometimes symptoms can be more severe.
According to The Australasian Menopause Society, there have been few studies following women before and after oophorectomy to try and understand how surgery affects their menopausal symptoms.
As you can see there’s no definitive answer to the question ‘what age does menopause start’?
Because we are all bio individuals and many factors affect our physiology and reproductive systems, menopause can’t be defined by age.
While menopause can be a challenging time mentally, physically and emotionally it’s not a disease, but rather a natural part of growing older.
With that said, if you experience premature, early and surgical menopause it can be heartbreaking.
Understandably, you may experience grief and sadness at the loss of fertility and/or the unexpected changes in your body.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support.
At MenoMe® we know that the needs of women who experience menopause are different.
We have 40+ for women in perimenopause (because on average women enter perimenopause at around age 40). And 55+ for women in post-menopause (because on average women enter post-menopause around 50-55 years of age).
It should be noted that because of their safety profile 40+ and 55+ provide a solution for premature, early and surgical menopause too. Please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to go over your options.
Some of the signs we talk about here can also be experienced during PMS or pregnancy. With this in mind, if you’re of perimenopausal age but still getting your period we advise ruling out pregnancy first.
Our articles are a guideline only. Any signs and symptoms you are experiencing could be due to a number of reasons. For this reason, this should not take the place of medical advice. If you’re experiencing ongoing signs please see your health professional.