Early Menopause: Signs, Symptoms, and Management

  • 4 months ago
4 minute read.
Early Menopause: Signs, Symptoms, and Management

Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs, resulting in decreased levels of estrogen - the hormone that regulates the reproductive cycle.

The average age range for menopause onset in women is between 45 and 55 years. If menopause begins before age 45, it is early menopause. Premature menopause, also known as premature ovarian insufficiency, occurs when menopause begins before age 40. Anything that can harm the ovaries or affect estrogen production can trigger early menopause.

When a woman goes without having a menstrual period for a continuous 12-month period, she is to have reached menopause. Some symptoms commonly associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, may emerge much earlier, during a transitional phase called perimenopause.

Perimenopause is where a woman's hormonal levels change, specifically the decline in estrogen production, which can lead to mood swings, irregular periods, and other symptoms that may last for several years before menopause is officially diagnosed.

[You may also like: Perimenopause: the rocky road to menopause]

Symptoms of early menopause

Early menopause might occur as soon as you have irregular periods or periods significantly longer or shorter than your normal cycle. Other symptoms of early menopause include:

  • heavy bleeding
  • spotting
  • periods lasting more than a week
  • a longer amount of time in between periods
  • decreased fertility
  • sleep disturbances
  • mood changes
  • vaginal dryness
  • hot flashes

Causes of early menopause

  1. Genetics is one of the most common causes of early menopause. Women who have a family history of early menopause may be more likely to experience it themselves. In some cases, genetic mutations can affect the functioning of the ovaries and lead to premature ovarian failure.
  2. Lifestyle factors are also linked to early menopause. Research has shown that women who smoke may experience menopause 1-2 years earlier than non-smokers. Smoking can accelerate the decline of the ovarian reserve, which is the number of eggs a woman has in her ovaries.
  3. Turner syndrome, a female-specific genetic condition is a prevalent cause of premature ovarian failure. Women with Turner syndrome have only one X chromosome instead of two, which can lead to problems with ovarian development and function. It can cause early menopause or delayed puberty. Other genetic disorders, such as Fragile X syndrome, can also cause early menopause. In these cases, genetic testing can help identify the underlying cause of premature ovarian failure.
  4. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to treat cancer, but these treatments can damage the ovaries and cause premature ovarian failure. Depending on the type and duration of treatment, women may experience temporary or permanent menopause.
  5. Hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus; she may have the option to retain her ovaries. In such cases, the woman would no longer experience menstrual periods and become incapable of getting pregnant. However, because the ovaries are still present, the woman may not immediately enter menopause as the ovaries will continue to produce hormones.

[Also check: What does the menstrual blood color say about your health?]

How is early menopause diagnosed?

The diagnosis of early menopause is usually made based on a woman's symptoms and medical history, including the age at which her mother and sisters went through menopause. In addition to this, your doctor may conduct various tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include-

  1. Blood tests: Blood tests measure hormone levels, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and estrogen. In women with early menopause, FSH levels are typically higher than normal.
  2. Pelvic exam: A pelvic exam to check for any abnormalities, such as cysts or fibroids, that may be causing irregular periods.
  3. Ultrasound: An ultrasound to look for abnormalities in the ovaries, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or ovarian cysts.
  4. Genetic testing: In some cases, genetic testing is to identify any underlying genetic causes of early menopause.

How is early menopause treated or managed?

Hormone therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is taking estrogen and progesterone-containing medications to replace hormones that the body no longer produces. It can help relieve symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood changes. HRT can be administered in different forms, including pills, patches, creams, gels, or vaginal rings. The type of HRT, dosage, and duration of treatment will depend on the individual's symptoms, medical history, and risk factors for health conditions.

Lifestyle changes

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help improve overall health and manage symptoms of early menopause. Eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help provide essential nutrients and prevent weight gain. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake also helps to enhance your overall health.

[Also check: Ways to preserve healthy bones pre & post menopause]

Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers

Vaginal dryness is a common symptom of early menopause that can cause discomfort during sexual activity. Over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers can help relieve vaginal dryness and discomfort.

Lubricants can be applied to the vaginal area during sexual activity to reduce friction and improve comfort, while moisturizers can be used regularly to maintain vaginal moisture.

Fertility preservation

If you have been diagnosed with early menopause and want to have children, you may be able to preserve your fertility through egg or embryo freezing. It involves extracting eggs from the ovaries and freezing them for later use. Embryo freezing involves fertilizing eggs with sperm in a laboratory and freezing the resulting embryos. These options can help increase the chances of having a biological child later in life.

[You may also like: Dietary tips for menopause]


Early menopause can be a challenging condition that can affect a woman's physical and emotional well-being. If you are experiencing symptoms of early menopause, it is essential to seek the guidance of a healthcare provider. With the treatment and support, women with early menopause can manage their symptoms and lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

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