Premature menopause affects one in 100 women under the age of 40.

What is premature menopause?

If you start the menopause before the age of 40 this is known as premature menopause (premature, because clearly you are going through it earlier than the average woman at around 51). It is also known as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).

How is it different from early menopause?

If yours starts between the ages of 40-45 it is called early menopause.

What causes premature menopause?

Your menopause can be naturally premature or early because your ovaries stop working. In many women no cause can be found – although it is known to run in families. Alternatively, it can happen when one or both ovaries is removed if you have had a hysterectomy (a procedure to remove the womb). Some cancer treatments can lead to early menopause and medical or surgical treatment for endometriosis can also be a cause. Due to the abrupt hormonal changes, women can often experience more severe menopausal symptoms after these types of procedure – what they’re going through is called a surgical menopause.

Signs of premature menopause

If you are under 45 and seem to be experiencing menopausal symptoms, your GP might suggest a blood test to measure the level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in the blood. This hormone generally increases as you approach menopause and by measuring your blood levels of it, your doctor can ascertain whether your symptoms are most likely to be menopause-related or not. This blood test is often repeated four to six weeks later. If you are over 45 and are having irregular periods it is unlikely a blood test will be necessary.

The effects of early and premature menopause

Both can affect your fertility and psychologically, it can be a difficult time (both dealing with the physical and psychological effects of your menopausal symptoms whilst also coming to terms with the emotional fallout of not being able to get pregnant or getting older). Early and premature menopause increase your risk of osteoporosis (bone thinning) and heart disease so help support both your bone health and heart is vital at this time. Your Doctor should be able to talk you through your options and you can find more detail here and here.

For more support and advice, head back to our dedicated menopause guide