Am I too young to be menopausal?
Menopause demystified: looking at the science behind common menopause questions
It’s a common misconception that the menopause only happens to women in their 40s, 50s or beyond.
Let’s take a look behind the science behind this claim to get to the facts.
Can you be ‘too young’ to be menopausal? What does the evidence say?
In short, no.
The menopause is when your ovaries stop producing eggs and levels of hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone fall.
The average age of the menopause – that is, when you haven’t had a period in 12 months – is 51.
But 51 is exactly that, an average.
Menopause before 45 is known as an early menopause, while menopause before the age of 40 is known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI).
POI is a lot more common than most people think: it affects about 1 in 100 women under the age of 40, and 1 in 1,000 women under 30 . Even girls in their teens can be perimenopausal or menopausal.
RELATED: podcast: the challenges of accessing menopause treatment as a young woman
Why can menopause happen at an earlier age?
For most women with POI, the underlying cause is ‘idiopathic’, or unknown, but causes can include:
- having your ovaries removed during an operation (in which case the term premature surgical menopause is technically more accurate as there can be no return of ovarian function)
- radiotherapy to your pelvic area as a treatment for cancer, or if you have received certain types of chemotherapy drugs that treat cancer
- if you have had your womb (uterus) removed in an operation called a hysterectomy, even if your ovaries are not removed 
- an autoimmune disease, for example, type 1 diabetes, thyroid conditions or Addison’s disease
- genetic conditions, the most common of which is Turner syndrome, in which one of the female sex chromosomes (the X chromosome) is missing.
What’s the bottom line?
The menopause can happen at an early age.
If you notice any changes to your periods, or other symptoms you may think are related to the perimenopause or menopause, make an appointment to see a healthcare professional (you can use the balance app to track any symptoms). Your pathway to a diagnosis may differ from older women, and involve blood tests and other investigations to rule out other causes. You can find out more in this booklet Menopause and Me: a Guide for Younger Women.
- The Daisy Network, ‘What is POI?’, www.daisynetwork.org/about-poi/what-is-poi
- Moorman P.G., Myers E.R., Schildkraut J.M., Iversen E.S., Wang F., Warren N. (2011), ‘Effect of hysterectomy with ovarian preservation on ovarian function’, Obstetrics and Gynecology, 118 (6) pp.1271-79. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318236fd12