What are the signs of early menopause in women?

They are the same as those of menopause, but occur between the ages of 40 to 45 years of age. These symptoms include: (a) irregular or heavy periods, (b) hot flashes, (c) sleep disturbances usually related to the hot flashes, (d) vaginal dryness, (e) pain with intercourse due to vaginal dryness, (f) urinary symptoms such as urinary incontinence and irritation, (g) depression, (h) breast tenderness, (i) headaches, and (j) joint pain.

Even though menopause is not a disease, you shouldn't hesitate to talk to your doctor about early signs and symptoms of menopause. There are many effective treatments to help make this change in your life occur more smoothly. From lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy, let your doctor know your symptoms, and she may be able to help you.

The symptoms of early menopause are just like those you may experience during menopause that occurs at the traditional time, except they occur before age 40. They may include night sweats, hot flashes, trouble concentrating, irregular periods, and irritable mood. Your vagina may feel dry and you may be less interested in having sex. Eventually, your periods will cease completely.

Menopause can be divided into “early” menopause (no period for six months) and “late” menopause (no period for one year). During early menopause, a woman's stimulating hormones are elevated as her brain tries to get her ovaries to work, but they no longer produce eggs and only make low levels of estrogen. This combination affects the body’s thermostat and causes hot flashes, leading to sleep disruption, fatigue, irritability and mood changes. Low estrogen can also cause mood changes and increase susceptibility to anxiety and depression, with accompanying physical changes. Vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, decreased libido, joint pain and decreased elasticity of the skin can also be experienced. Fortunately, there are a variety of options to help alleviate these symptoms.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

The signs of early menopause, which usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 45, are essentially the same as those experienced by women who experience it during the typical age range of 47 through 55 (the average age is 51). The symptoms women experience are related to the amount of estrogen made by the ovaries. Women in early menopause can have fluctuating estrogen levels, or the ovaries can stop producing estrogen abruptly, which occurs when the ovaries are removed or are damaged by cancer therapies. If it occurs early naturally or because of diseases such as premature ovarian failure (POF), estrogen levels can rise and fall unpredictably. So you may skip a period or have changes in normal blood flow (heavier or lighter) for months, or your period stops completely and suddenly. Women with early menopause also get hot flashes, vaginal dryness, experience lack of sexual desire, mental confusion and changes in mood (including anxiety and depression).

If you are going through early menopause, there are several excellent reasons why you should schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

For starters, there's a good chance that you're experiencing some unpleasant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep problems and mood swings. Women who undergo early menopause (especially due to removal of the ovaries) tend to have unusually severe symptoms. You may have come up with your own do-it-yourself coping mechanisms, but your doctor can recommend others. And if lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor can prescribe medication to help alleviate menopause symptoms.

After menopause, a woman's risk for heart disease, osteoporosis and some other conditions increases. These risks seem to be greater for women who go through menopause early, or before age 40. Your doctor can devise a plan of preventive strategies to lower your odds for developing heart and bone problems, as well as other medical conditions.

Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

Women who enter menopause naturally, whether at the average age or earlier, experience certain physical changes gradually. These changes can include irregular menstrual periods, heavier or lighter menstrual flow than is normal for, hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.

Women going through the menopause transition also sometimes report urinary problems (including frequency of urination, urinary stress incontinence and pain on urination), abrupt mood swings, problem in concentrating or remembering things and loss of sexual desire or response. But, the connection between such changes and menopause is not clear; aging or other life stresses may be the cause. The additional changes that some women note at the time of menopause include migraine headaches or head pressure, dryer and thinner skin, thinner and more brittle hair, weight gain, breast swelling and tenderness. Any of these changes can indicate other conditions as well, and not all women going through the menopause transition experience all of these.

Many young women mistake the early signs of menopause for premenstrual syndrome PMS. If you have several signs of menopause that occur throughout the month (instead of beginning prior to menstruation and ending shortly after menstruation begins), they may indicate menopause rather than PMS.

Some women never experience any hot flash; they just stop menstruating. Others experience minimal hot flashes or other minor symptoms for a short time, stop menstruating and never again have any symptoms. However, if you are younger than the typical age for menopause, it is likely that you will experience more severe problems than other women.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause


Continue Learning about Early Menopause

How can support groups help women to face early menopause?
Boston Women's Health Book CollectiveBoston Women's Health Book Collective
Many women going through sudden or early menopause find it helpful to connect with others in the sam...
More Answers
What is early menopause?
Sigma NursingSigma Nursing
Early (or premature) natural menopause is when, before age 45, your body stops releasing eggs and re...
More Answers
What do I need to know about caring for someone with early menopause?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Caring for a loved one with early menopause can be difficult as she struggles with the emotional imp...
More Answers
Signs of Early Menopause
Signs of Early Menopause

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.