Nutrition & Lifestyle

Signs & Symptoms of Early Menopause

by Nikki Warren on Feb 21, 2024

Signs & Symptoms of Early Menopause

Many of us picture menopause happening around the age of 50. If your doctor has told you that you're likely to have early menopause, this news can be quite shocking. Many women wonder what they need to know and how to optimise their hormones.

Taking high quality supplements alongside optimising your diet and lifestyle can support your hormone levels to manage symptoms.


Here's What You Need to Know About Early Menopause

  • Early menopause occurs between the age of 40-45 years.
  • Early menopause may occur naturally or from causes such as surgery or cancer treatment.
  • You may manage the symptoms of early menopause through dietary and lifestyle changes with herbal medicine.

Read on to learn more about early menopause, what can cause it and how to manage your symptoms in perimenopause and menopause.


Early Menopause & Age

Understanding that early menopause and premature ovarian failure are not the same thing is important. Early menopause occurs when you have your last period between 40 to 45 years of age. Premature ovarian failure occurs when you have your last period before age of 40. Average menopause age is around 51 years old, with the typical age range being 45 to 55.

Early menopause may impact women’s long-term health and wellbeing. Researchers have associated early menopause with an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and memory decline.

Having regular menstrual cycles is important to maintain healthy hormone levels. Reproductive hormones such as oestrogen have a protective effect on heart health, moods, energy and bones. While progesterone plays a role in healthy moods to minimise PMS symptoms.

If you are starting to experience symptoms of early menopause such as dry skin, memory loss and lighter periods, ask your GP for an FSH and oestradiol test on day 2 or 3 of your cycle.  If FSH is raised (higher than 20 pmol/L and/or oestradiol is low (less than 150 pmol/L), you are entering perimenopause.

Supporting natural menstrual cycles for as long as possible may help slow the transition to early menopause. 


Signs & Symptoms of Early Menopause

Signs and symptoms of early menopause will be similar to normal menopause symptoms. However, the severity of early menopause symptoms is often worse. This is because of the rapid change in hormones.

Signs and symptoms of early menopause may include:

  • Hot flushes or night sweats
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Brain fog, poor memory, mood changes
  • Vaginal dryness and low libido
  • Muscle aches, weight gain and urinary problems
  • Not having a period for at least 12 months (irregular periods happen in perimenopause).


Early Menopause & Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy may impact the ovaries and put a woman into early menopause. Tamoxifen is a common medication prescribed to women during or after breast cancer treatment. It modifies your body’s response to oestrogen.

Some women may experience negative effects from tamoxifen. Their doctor might recommend other medications known as aromatase inhibitors.

Talk to your doctor, naturopath, and oncologist before taking any supplements or herbal medicines. They can help assess the benefits and risks. Herbal medicines may interact with medications, so do not self-prescribe.


Early Menopause & Surgery

Women may enter early menopause after certain surgeries, including a partial or full hysterectomy. A hysterectomy involves the removal of the uterus and/or one or both ovaries. Doctors may perform these surgeries on women who have endometriosis, adenomyosis, or other reproductive concerns.

In women that have only had their uterus removed, they still have their ovaries which continue to produce hormones. It can be hard to assess whether they are in early menopause as they won’t bleed without a uterus. These women can have regular blood testing of their hormones to see if they are heading to early menopause or not.


Testing for Early Menopause

Early menopause can happen naturally too. If you have symptoms in your late 30s or early 40s, you can see your healthcare provider for testing. Your doctor can do a blood test for FSH and oestradiol on day 2 or 3 of your cycle.

  • FSH stands for follicle stimulating hormone, which stimulates our ovaries to produce reproductive hormones. In perimenopause and menopause FSH becomes progressively higher.  A normal level is less than 10 pmol/L on day 2 or 3 of the cycle.
  • Oestrogen usually fluctuates wildly in perimenopause and is low in early menopause.

Your healthcare provider will also test other reproductive hormones. Doctors will examine your symptoms to rule out other causes before diagnosing early menopause.


How to Manage Early Menopause

Supporting healthy hormone production may delay early menopause. This may be possible for early menopause that is naturally occurring.

Optimising your diet and nutrition is one way that you can support healthy hormone production. To maintain a healthy oestrogen balance, you need to eat healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

Aim for a nutrient dense diet. Increase fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and organic animal products (dairy, seafood, and meat). Having a healthy lifestyle also plays a role in healthy hormone balance. Aim to reduce any alcohol, stress, and toxin exposure as these can negatively impact your hormones.  Smoking is one of the risk factors for early menopause, so if you haven't yet, you need to seek help to quit.

If you have low oestrogen levels you may consider taking high quality herbal medicines to support healthy oestrogen levels.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.