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Looking To The Future: When Does Menopause Start

Many women mistakenly think that menopause is something that only starts in their 50s when it can. In fact, it can happen at any time and for many different reasons. Most women's menopause age will be between 45 and 55, but it can sometimes take place earlier.


The GlycanAge Team


  • The majority of women will start natural menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. Menopause occurs when a woman's ovaries have run out of functioning eggs, and she has not had a period for 12 months in a row.

  • Some women will go through menopause at an earlier age for both natural and medical reasons. When it comes to the medical causes of menopause, it can be due to a hysterectomy, abdominal resection and pelvic exenteration. Some medical treatments can also bring on menopause due to the ovaries becoming damaged.

  • The menopause transition (also known as perimenopause) tends to last around seven years, but it can be as long as 14. The time between perimenopause and menopause can sometimes depend on lifestyle factors (such as smoking), race and ethnicity, and the age at which perimenopause starts.

  • It is unlikely you will not know precisely when menopause has hit, but you can look out for some of the common symptoms. For example, irregular periods, hot flashes, sleep problems, mood swings and physical changes like your hair thickness, excess weight, and stiff joints.



Many women mistakenly think that menopause is something that only starts in their 50s when it can. In fact, it can happen at any time and for many different reasons. Most women's menopause age will be between 45 and 55, but it can sometimes take place earlier. For example, one of the youngest women diagnosed with menopause in the UK was only 15. However, this was a rare occurrence caused by an unfortunate case of premature ovarian failure.

Menopause can start for various reasons, but it happens naturally due to lower hormone levels. In addition, some women may experience menopause due to medical conditions (like the young 15-year-old), a required surgery that removes the ovaries or uterus, cancer treatments, or even genetic reasons.

This article will explore why menopause starts when to expect menopause, and the symptoms to look out for. Armed with a bit of female health knowledge, you can reduce the chances of menopause catching you off guard and prepare yourself for entering your next phase of post-menstruation life.


Natural Causes of Menopause

A woman holding a medical model of a human uterus


When most females are born, they have between 1 to 3 million eggs which are gradually lost throughout their lifetime. There are an average of around 400,000 eggs when a girl gets her first menstrual period, and by the time a woman reaches menopause, she will have less than 10,000 eggs. Menopause naturally occurs when a woman's ovaries have run out of functioning eggs. Only a small number of eggs are lost through regular ovulation (the monthly cycle). Most eggs die through a process called follicular atresia.


During the first half of a female's menstrual cycle, a reproductive hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is responsible for growing the ovarian follicles (eggs). However, as menopause approaches, the remaining eggs become resistant to FSH, and the ovaries dramatically decrease estrogen production.


The hormone oestrogen impacts many parts of the body – including the uterus, bones, breasts, heart, blood vessels, skin and brain. It is understood that this drop in estrogen production is the cause of many symptoms associated with menopause. In addition, testosterone production also decreases during menopause, which is the hormone involved with sex drive.


Medical Causes of Menopause

A close-up of a woman with an abdominal hysterectomy scar


Not all women will experience natural menopause – some experience induced menopause due to medical causes. Menopause brought on due to medical causes can be a result of surgery or medical treatments. The symptoms of menopause can be more severe for women going through surgical or medical menopause than if they were to go through menopause naturally.


There are some instances when premenopausal women undergo surgical menopause due to their ovaries needing to be surgically removed. This procedure is known as a bilateral oophorectomy and results in an abrupt menopause. The majority of bilateral oophorectomies are performed due to cancer, such as ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and endometrial (cancer of the uterus). However, the procedure is occasionally required for noncancerous conditions, like endometriosis, fibroids, or infections.


The surgical removal of the uterus (known as a hysterectomy) can sometimes, but not always, include a bilateral oophorectomy. A hysterectomy that does not require the ovaries also to be removed will usually not result in menopause. Instead, the ovaries will often continue to function, although menses will stop once the uterus has been removed.


A couple of other common surgeries involving the removal of both ovaries include abdominal resection and total pelvic exenteration:

  • Abdominal resection is a surgical procedure to help treat colon and rectal cancer. This surgery tends to involve the removal of the lower colon and rectum. Still, on occasion, it can also require partial or total removal of the uterus, ovaries, and the rear wall of the vagina.

  • Total pelvic exenteration is a procedure usually only carried out when someone is fighting cervical cancer that recurs despite treatment with radiation and other surgery. This procedure involves the removal of the majority of the pelvic organs – including the uterus, ovaries, cervix, fallopian tubes, vagina, bladder, urethra and parts of the rectum.


Some medical treatments can also bring about menopause, such as chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy that damage the ovaries. However, not all premenopausal women undergoing these medical treatments experience induced menopause. It is also possible for the damage caused to the ovaries to be temporary. 

When Does Menopause Start?

 A woman hand holding a paper calendar with question marks over five dates


When women experience natural causes of menopause, it starts when it has been 12 months since her last period. The time leading up to that point in time, when women may go through changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes and other symptoms, is called perimenopause or menopausal transition.


The menopausal transition tends to occur between 45 and 55 for most women. It is usually expected to last around seven years, but it can be as long as 14 years for some. The amount of time between perimenopause and menopause starts can depend on lifestyle factors (such as smoking, drinking, and diet), race and ethnicity, and the age at which it begins.


To help you monitor your lifestyle choices, use a GlycanAge biological age and wellness test. Testing two or more times a year will allow you to keep a close eye on your health to ensure you are doing everything possible to make your journey to menopause and beyond a positive one.


During perimenopause, the two hormones made by the ovaries (oestrogen and progesterone) vary hugely. As a result, this transitional stage can affect women in very different ways. For example, weight gain can be an issue as fat cells change. Women may also experience changes in their body shape, physical function, and even bone and heart health.  


Symptoms of Menopause

 Unhappy woman holding her head with her eyes closed


Before you officially enter menopause, you may notice some changes in the months or years leading up to this next stage of your life. It is unlikely you will not know precisely when menopause has hit, but you can pay attention to how you are feeling and notice changes in the lead-up. Remember that symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and some mayhave no symptoms at all. Here are some of the common symptoms of menopause:

  • Irregular periods – One of the classic signs that menopause is on its way is having irregular periods. They can be more or less frequent, lighter or heavier, and last longer or shorter than before perimenopause. This makes it rather hard to predict when or if your next period will come. It can also be harder to get pregnant during this stage, but it is still possible as long as you have periods.

  • Hot flashes and night sweats – Perhaps the most well well-known menopausal symptom is hot flashes. This can be incredibly disruptive to daily life as you can suddenly feel warm or hot for no apparent reason. Your skin can flush red, and your heart rate can start to speed up. There can also be sudden drops in temperature, which can be just as uncomfortable. Night sweats are when these hot flashes happen when you sleep, and they can be so intense they cause you to wake up. Unfortunately, hot flashes can continue during postmenopause and can last from anything between 1 or 5 minutes.

  • Trouble sleeping – Having problems sleeping can happen for many reasons, but if you do not typically have issues with waking up during the night or having difficulty falling asleep, it could be a sign you are approaching menopause. Unsurprisingly, it can be caused by symptoms like night sweats, but others may experience sleep issues for no apparent reason.

  • Mood changes – The alterations in hormones during perimenopause can hugely affect your mood. This can be particularly problematic for those that have suffered from anxiety or depression in the past and may experience more intense symptoms during menopause. It is important to feel good, and some treatment options are available to help support your moods through this transitional stage.

  • Forgetfulness – Having some minor memory lapses during middle age is common for both men and women. This is usually not a major symptom as it tends to be little problems like not being able to remember the name of a song or not being able to find your car keys. Forgetfulness can stem from menopause and the stress associated with entering a new phase of your life

  • Sexual desire – It is possible for some women to become less interested in sex or have problems becoming sexually aroused when they are in menopause. On the other hand, some find they enjoy sex more and feel freer as they no longer have concerns about becoming pregnant. Menopause can cause the skin around the vagina to become drier, which can make sex uncomfortable, but there are plenty of personal lubricants that can help.

  • Physical changes – When you are around the common menopause age range, you may notice some physical changes. These include your skin and hair becoming drier and thinner. Some women also find they carry more weight around their waist and lose muscle mass. Joints can also begin to become stiff and even become painful. It is important to look after your body and follow an active lifestyle so your body can continue to be strong and able.


Closing Thoughts

The menopause definition is when you have not had a period for 12 months. The age for menopause is not the same for every woman, and you will unlikely be able to pinpoint exactly when you have entered menopause. However, you can monitor symptoms and do your best to manage this time of transition.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

At what age does menopause typically begin?

The menopause transition typically begins between the ages of 45 and 55. Perimenopause can last about seven years but can be as long as 14 years.  

What are the three stages of menopause?

There are three phases of menopause: perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause), menopause (you have gone for 12 months in a row of not having a period) and postmenopause (the time after menopause has occurred). Some women will find each stage brings a new set of symptoms to manage, while others may have very mild or no symptoms at all.

Is there a test for menopause?

There is no simple over-the-counter test to predict or confirm perimenopause or menopause, but the research is ongoing. For the moment, menopause is confirmed once you have gone without a menstrual bleed for 12 months.

How can I avoid menopause?

It is not possible to prevent menopause from happening – it is a natural part of a woman's life cycle. However, it is possible to manage symptoms and have a more enjoyable transition by following a healthy lifestyle. Many people monitor their biological age by taking GlycanAge tests to check they are on a positive wellness path as they age.

Do things get better after menopause?

Some research shows that many women get happier in later life, particularly between the ages of 50 and 70. Several cultures celebrate menopause and see it as a time when women are free of the pain and inconvenience of menstruation. In addition, negative mood and depressive symptoms can hugely decrease across postmenopausal years. 





The GlycanAge Team

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