Common ailments

Early menopause

Q: I am a 41 year old mum of two and about five months ago I stopped having monthly periods. I am not pregnant but I have heard that women can sometimes begin the menopause before they turn 40. Is this true and is this anything to worry about?

A: The menopause is part of the natural ageing process and is caused by changes in the balance of the female sex hormones. A woman is born with a finite number of eggs which are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries also produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which regulate a woman’s periods. Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month, the hormone levels then drop and monthly periods stop.

In the UK, the average age for the menopause to occur is 52, with most women going though menopause between the age of 45 and 55. However, many women experience the menopause long before this. This is known as early menopause and more than one in twenty women will experience early menopause.

The fact that your periods stopped several months ago does not necessarily indicate that you are going through the menopause. I would definitely advise that you speak to your GP who will be able to discuss your symptoms with you and establish whether perhaps lifestyle factors or an underlying medical condition has caused your periods to stop. Genetics may play a part also as some women are more likely to go through the menopause early if their mother did.

The female hormone oestrogen plays a very important role in maintaining the health of all the connective tissues in the body, including blood vessels, skin, ligaments and bones. If therefore your GP advises that you are in fact experiencing early menopause then they might discuss with you the possibility of hormone replacement therapy or HRT or other treatment to counteract the effects of low oestrogen levels in your body.

Back to list