We know by now that there’s no standard menopause experience because everything from the symptoms that a woman experiences to the age perimenopause begins is as individual as our menstrual cycles. Research shows that around 5% of women in the UK will go through an early menopause at some point in their lives – that’s 1 in 100 women. But sadly, many women live with symptoms for many years, completely unaware of the transition that their body is going through.

Never dismiss your symptoms simply because you feel you’re too young. I have seen women in their 30s who are experiencing symptoms of menopause, and this can happen for many reasons. Here I break down what early menopause is and why it happens, plus the symptoms that you need to have on your radar.

What is early menopause?

‘Early’ menopause means not having a period for twelve months under the age of 40. This can happen naturally or as a side effect of some treatments. The menopause is a normal part of the ageing process that usually occurs between 45 and 55. In the UK, the average age of menopause is 51 years, but many women experience symptoms for several years before that – this is known as perimenopause. Menopause in some women can occur earlier. Menopause before the age of 40 is known as premature ovarian insufficiency or premature menopause.

What are the causes and risk factors of early menopause?

Menopause typically occurs as a woman’s body naturally begins to produce less oestrogen and progesterone. However, some women go through menopause early due to:

  • Family history: If early menopause runs in your family, you are more likely to follow suit.
  • Smoking: Current and former smokers have a higher risk of early menopause compared to non-smokers.
  • Chemotherapy or radiation: Sometimes, these treatments can damage the ovaries, triggering menopause.
  • A bilateral oophorectomy: This surgery removes both ovaries, triggering menopause.

What are the most common symptoms?

Symptoms of early menopause are the same as the usual menopausal symptoms and range from physical to psychological. They include hot flushes, night sweats, muscle aches, reduced energy levels, brain fog, headaches, hair loss, low libido, irritability, and low mood.

Is there a test for early menopause symptoms?

If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, you can visit your doctor for a blood hormone profile which will check the reproductive hormone levels in these cases and assess for ovarian insufficiency. A doctor may also test your thyroid hormone levels to rule out thyroid disease, as some menopause symptoms are similar to those of thyroid issues.

What are the treatment options for early menopause?

Menopause itself isn’t treated, but the symptoms can certainly be managed successfully. Hormone replacement therapy or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is the most effective way to tackle menopausal symptoms as it replenishes lost hormones in the body. It involves taking hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, and progesterone to help improve mood and reduce hot flushes and other symptoms.

Exercise can drastically improve both your physical and mental health, and you can be entirely in charge of this. A combination of both cardiovascular and resistance exercise is the best way to release the feel-good hormone endorphin, as well as improve your general health.

Take some time to assess your diet and choose wholesome, fresh, fibre-rich foods and lean proteins. They provide you with folate, omega 3 fatty acids and the nutrients to help improve your mood.

If you’d like to discuss bio-identical hormone replacement therapy and whether it’s right for you, click here to book a consultation.