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Premature menopause

What would cause me to go through the menopause prematurely?

It is very unusual to start going through the menopause before the age of 40, although there are very particular reasons for doing so. Here, our menopause expert Eileen Durward addresses the triggers surrounding premature menopause, and explains how it can be caused in women under the age of 40.

An introduction to premature menopause

Menopause is considered to be premature if it begins before the age of 40. However, there are certain circumstances where menopause may be considered to be premature, no matter what age it begins, if it is medically induced. This may be for a number of reasons including a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) and medicines, such as chemotherapy drugs.

Naturally premature menopause

A premature menopause can be natural. The average age for the menopause is 51, but for some women, hormonal changes of the menopause start to take place much earlier without any obvious health condition present. The two main reasons for this happening are the genes you inherit and lifestyle factors:

  • If your mother went through the menopause early, the chances are that you will do the same
  • Smoking, a poor diet and obesity make it more likely that you will start the menopause early.

Having an early or premature menopause can initially be alarming, and if you are worried or much younger than 51, you should see your doctor who will eliminate medical causes.

Once confirmation of a naturally occurring premature menopause is received, many women go on to enjoy life without the inconvenience of monthly periods, sooner than planned.

Medical conditions

There is a long list of medical conditions which can cause an early menopause. We describe two examples:

  • Chromosome defects, such as Turner’s syndrome, can mean that ovaries never fully develop. This may lead to problems with fertility and a premature menopause
  • Autoimmune conditions arise when the body mistakes normal working cells of the body for an invading organism such as a virus. In response, the immune system mounts an attack and if the ovaries happen to be the target, normal production of oestrogen and progesterone are affected, leading to the onset of premature menopause. This is seen more commonly in women who suffer thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis.


Having a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) can cause one to enter the menopause prematurely, depending on the type of operation required. There are two main types of hysterectomies:

  • A sub-total hysterectomy (incomplete hysterectomy) is when the womb is removed, but one or both ovaries are left intact. Although periods stop (because there is no womb), the ovaries continue to produce hormones. However, women who have gone through this operation tend to enter the menopause prematurely after a few years. As you will not have a monthly period, it can be difficult to determine when this occurs
  • A total hysterectomy (complete hysterectomy) is when the womb and both ovaries are removed. With this type of operation, you will enter the menopause straight away and may experience symptoms such as hot flushes as little as 24 hours after the surgery.

Medication and medical treatment

Some medicines and treatments prescribed by your doctor can cause a premature menopause:

  • Some types of anti-depressants and other similar types of medications
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy – these are perhaps the most common cause of premature or early menopause. These treatments are intended to treat cancerous cells but also cause damage to healthy cells, particularly the genetic material in them which enables them to naturally multiply. In some cases, periods may begin again once the treatment has been completed, in which case you are not considered to be menopausal.

A.Vogel’s Menopause Mondays: Pregnancy & Empty Nest Syndrome – the broody blues of menopause!

This week it’s all about the broody blues of menopause! Suddenly feeling an overwhelming urge to have a baby? Or if you have children, are you feeling down as they become more independent? I explain why you may experience these two very common feelings as you approach or go through the menopause as I take a look at pregnancy and empty nest syndrome at this time.

Missed one? Watch them all on my menopause blog.

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How I survived the menopause

What is happening to me? I know I asked this, so if you are asking it too, don’t worry, you are not alone! The menopause can be a daunting, confusing and scary time if you let it be, but as they say, knowledge is power.

I use my personal experience of going through the menopause (and surviving it) to offer support and guidance to help you have a happier, healthier menopause.

I survived the menopause and so can you!

Don't go through the Menopause alone!

Menopause expert Eileen Durward explains the benefits of joining the A.Vogel Menopause Health Hub.

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This week's talking point

HRT 'increases ovarian cancer risk' Well ladies, it's in the news again. According to a recent study, HRT has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women taking it for over 5 years.

Menopause Expert Eileen Durward looks at the medical facts behind the news headlines.

What do you think?

Have you found what you read useful? If so, I would love if you would leave your comment below. Thanks Eileen Durward

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