Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Early menopause

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Early or premature menopause is when a woman stops having her monthly periods earlier than expected.
  • Around 1 in 12 women experience early menopause by the age of 45.
  • Early menopause can occur due to certain health conditions, treatment for cancer, or after a woman’s ovaries are removed.
  • Symptoms of early menopause are similar to those of normal menopause, but may be more severe and with a less gradual onset.

What is early menopause?

Early menopause is when a woman’s last monthly period occurs between the ages of 40 and 45 years. Up to 1 in 12 women have their last period by the time they are 45 years. When menopause occurs before the age of 40, it is considered to be ‘premature menopause’. Most Australian women experience normal menopause between the ages of 45 and 60 years.

What are the symptoms of early menopause?

Symptoms of early menopause are similar to those of normal menopause:

  • Changes to your menstrual cycle — monthly periods become less frequent and stop.
  • Hot flushes or night sweats – a sudden feeling of heat in the neck and chest with changes to your heart rate.
  • Problems sleeping (insomnia) and/or lower energy levels and tiredness.
  • Pain in your muscles or joints.
  • Vaginal and urinary symptoms — as the vaginal lining becomes thinner and dryer, you may experience discomfort during sex and/or need to urinate more often.
  • Mood changes — you may feel anxious, upset, sad or angry in more situations.

When early menopause is due to surgery or cancer treatment, these symptoms may be more intense than normal menopause, and with a less gradual onset.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes early menopause?

Early or premature menopause can occur due to:

  • certain treatments that stop the ovaries from functioning, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer
  • surgery to remove a woman’s ovaries (oophorectomy)
  • primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), when periods stop spontaneously due to certain genetic, autoimmune or metabolic conditions
  • someunknown cause — in 6 in 10 women with early menopause, the cause is unknown

How is early menopause diagnosed?

While there isn’t a specific diagnostic test, menopause is confirmed if it has been 12 months since your last period. Blood tests are unlikely to be accurate or helpful in predicting menopause.

If spontaneous menopause happens early (that is, it has been 3 months since your last period and you are younger than 45), your doctor may suspect POI. You will be asked to have 2 blood tests at least a month apart to check your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

Seek medical advice if you are concerned about irregular cycles, heavy or abnormal bleeding, or symptoms that interfere with your daily life.

How is early menopause managed?

If you are affected by early menopause, it’s important to get medical support to help you manage not just your menopause symptoms, but also reduce your risk of developing other conditions. These may occur due to a lack of oestrogen and include:

Hormone therapy

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) involves replacing your hormones (oestogren and progesterone, and sometimes testosterone) to relieve menopause symptoms. If you opt to start MHT, take the lowest effective dose for only as long as you need to, and review with your doctor regularly whether to continue treatment.

Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe ‘the pill’ (combined oral contraceptive pill). While its main purpose is to prevent pregnancy, the pill is also recommended to reduce severe symptoms and long-term health risks such as osteoporosis and early onset cardiovascular disease.

Non-hormonal therapy

If for some reason you can’t take ‘the pill’ or MHT (for example, if you have had breast or uterine cancer),1 your doctor may suggest other prescription medicines such as certain antidepressants, gabapentin (a type of pain medicine), or clonidine (a blood pressure medicine).

Other non-hormonal options for managing menopause symptoms include:

  • herbal remedies such as black cohosh and red clover
  • plant-based oestrogens (phytoestrogens) — for example, in soy
  • hypnotherapy
  • cognitive behaviour treatment
  • mindfulness therapy
  • acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine

Before trying any of these options, get advice from your GP.

Can early menopause be delayed?

There is no clear evidence that changing behaviour can delay menopause. However, some factors increase your risk of early or premature menopause:

  • if your period started at 11 years old or earlier
  • a family history of early menopause (this increases your risk by up to 12 times)
  • smoking
  • epilepsy
  • previous ovarian surgery

Can I still get pregnant?

In some women who experience early menopause (for example, due to POI), there is a small chance that the ovaries will spontaneously start functioning again. In these women, there is a 1 in 10 chance that a natural pregnancy is possible.

Should I continue to get cervical screening?

Changes to your vagina after menopause can make important tests such as cervical screening uncomfortable. However, you should still have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years until you’re 74 years of age. Talk with your doctor about the available options.

Resources and support

For more information and support, try these resources:

  • Call 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642) for free information and advice on menopause and other women’s health issues.
  • Find an Australian doctor or health professional who specialises in women’s health, menopause and healthy ageing on the Australasian Menopausal Society website.

Other languages

Do you prefer languages other than English?

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Premature and early menopause | Jean Hailes

Premature menopause is when your final period happens before the age of 40 years. Early menopause is when your final period happens between the ages of 40…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Premature and early menopause - Better Health Channel

The symptoms of premature or early menopause are the same as for menopause at any age.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Premature & early menopause - fact sheet | Jean Hailes

This fact sheet explains what premature and early menopause is, and the types of symptoms women may experience.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Early menopause – chemotherapy and radiation therapy - Australasian Menopause Society

Early menopause – chemotherapy and radiation therapy

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Impact of early menopause on relationships - Healthtalk Australia

The women interviewed described the impact of early menopause on personal relationships with partners, children, parents, other family members, and friends.

Read more on Healthtalk Australia website

Menopause | Jean Hailes

Menopause is the final menstrual period. It can occur naturally and at the expected age, prematurely or early. Learn about symptoms, management and more.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Menopause before 40 and spontaneous POI - Australasian Menopause Society

Menopause before 40 and spontaneous premature ovarian insufficiency

Read more on Australasian Menopause Society website

Fibroids - Better Health Channel

Often, fibroids do not cause any problems, but they are occasionally associated with infertility, miscarriage and premature labour.

Read more on Better Health Channel website


Menopause is often referred to as the ‘change of life’ because it marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life. Menopause literally means that a woman has had her last (or final) menstrual period.

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Menopausal hormone therapy - Better Health Channel

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can reduce menopausal symptoms, but the benefits and risks need to be considered carefully.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.