What Is the Average Age for Menopause to Start?

3 minute read

By: Sheryl Kraft|Last updated: May 10, 2022
Medically reviewed by: Sharon D. Malone

Remember when we were younger, waiting for our periods to begin? We yearned for that first hint of red to appear, eager to join other girls in this rite of passage. That age was variable: Some of us began menstruating as early as 10, and some as late as 15.

By this time, that phase is getting ready to end. We’ve had about 450 cycles and used roughly 11,000 tampons. Maybe you’re ready for it just to be over.

And now you’re left wondering: How old will I be when I go through menopause? Just as when we were younger and waiting for things to begin, we’re now wondering in reverse: What is the average age for menopause — and importantly, what age will menopause start for me? Learn about the average menopausal age and what to expect when you start experiencing a change in hormone levels with this complete guide.

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First, Some Facts:

• The average age for a woman to have gone without a period for 12 months, and therefore officially be in menopause, is 51.

• The menopausal transition typically starts for women in their late 40s or early 50s.

• Menopause is a normal part of aging that happens when you’ve gone without a period for 12 consecutive months.

• Women can also enter menopause due to surgical removal to remove the ovaries, chemotherapy or radiation to the pelvis, or premature ovarian insufficiency.

• Menopause marks the end of your reproductive years, when your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs.

• The years leading up to menopause are known as “perimenopause.” This menopausal transition is when your ovaries start winding down and produce less hormones (mainly estrogen and progesterone).

• You can spend from two to 10 years in perimenopause before your periods stop for good and menopause starts.

Perimenopause Truths

• Menopause rarely announces itself one day with one final menstrual cycle. (What, you thought it was gonna be that simple?)

• Instead, you have to pass through perimenopause, otherwise known as the menopausal transition.

• This phase, when your ovaries’ production of estrogen winds down at times gradually, and at other times fitfully, can take anywhere from two to ten years.

• During perimenopause, there can be uncomfortable menopause symptoms.

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How You’ll Know You’re in Perimenopause

While you’re waiting for early menopause to start, there are many signs that it’s approaching. This transition usually begins in your mid-to-late 40s and is caused by hormonal fluctuations.

• Irregular periods. They can be heavier or lighter or longer or shorter than usual; or you may experience “flooding” or skip one or more months before they start up again. (Remember, natural menopause starts once you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a period.)

• Hot flashes

• Trouble sleeping (which can result in further symptoms of menopause fatigue)

• Mood swings or irritability

• Vaginal dryness

Why You Might Be Asking: “What Age Does Menopause Start?”

• Your friend’s menopause started in her early 40s.

• Your sister’s periods didn’t stop until she was in her mid-50s.

• You know someone who went through menopause in her 30s.

Although the biological process is similar for all of us, the age that natural menopause starts is different for every woman, and can depend on factors like:

Genetics

• Usually, you’ll reach menopause around the same age as your mother or sister.

• Due to a genetic mutation, some women reach menopause at an early age, or prematurely.

Where you live and your ethnicity

• Women in North American reach menopause between 40 and 58 (with the median menopause age being 51).

• The median age in Europe ranges from 50.1 to 52.8 years.

• The median age in Latin America is from 43.8 to 53 years.

• The median age in Asia is from 42.1 to 49.5 years.

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Your health status

• Smokers reach menopause about two years earlier than non-smokers. Quitting smoking prior to entering menopause can cut that risk.

• Menopause can be triggered by an oophorectomy (the removal of both ovaries).

• Certain health treatments (like pelvic radiation or chemotherapy for cancer), or conditions (like some autoimmune diseases) can influence what age you will be at menopause.

Once you reach menopause, no matter your age, you’ll need to be even more conscious of your health. That’s because as estrogen declines, health risks rise. Here are health conditions to monitor with the arrival of perimenopause.

• Heart disease. Estrogen helps keep blood vessels open and cholesterol levels healthy. But once estrogen levels fall, women’s risk of heart disease climbs and equals men’s of the same age by age 70.

 Osteoporosis. The loss of estrogen leads to the loss of bone mass and density, and can increase the risk of fractures.

 Stroke. Lower estrogen levels may be responsible for cholesterol build-up on the walls of arteries leading to the brain; the risk doubles every decade after 55.

 Obesity. Fat stores shift and settle around the abdomen, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders like diabetes.

• Urinary incontinence. A reduction in estrogen can have a weakening effect on the urethra, making it more difficult to hold in your urine. Research shows 16-18 percent of women experience bladder issues during this time.

What Else to Expect Post-Menopause

• You will no longer be able to get pregnant.

• Usually, you’ll get relief from menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings (We say “usually” because hot flashes can continue for up to 14 years for some women.)

• Vaginal dryness may become even more common.

• Some women experience dry eyes and itchy skin, and thinning hair or hair loss during menopause.

• Even if you eat and exercise the same as you always did, fat gain increases and lean mass decreases.

• Staying in good health is super-valuable in managing changes as estrogen levels decline.

• Continue to monitor your health with regular height and weight checks, mammograms, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; bone density tests and any other tests your healthcare provider recommends.

Experts agree that for the vast majority of healthy women, supplementing your body's natural hormones is the safest and most effective treatment to ease the vasomotor symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats. Head to our product page to check out your options. A menopause-trained doctor will review your choices to make sure you get the right treatment.

Sources

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  2. https://www.helpingwomenperiod.org/7-amazing-facts-about-periods-that-everyone-needs-to-know/

  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15224-menopause-perimenopause-and-postmenopause

  4. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/

  5. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/early-or-premature-menopause

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  11. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110996

  12. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/expert-answers/vaginal-dryness/faq-20115086

  13. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/factsheets/menopause

  14. https://www.myamericannurse.com/postmenopausal-women-urinary-incontinence/

  15. https://www.swanstudy.org/changes-in-body-composition-and-weight-during-the-menopause-transition/

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  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4542296/

Written by:

Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft is a seasoned freelance health writer, who writes, and is passionate about, healthy aging, wellness, fitness, nutrition and just about anything related to improving our lifestyle and personal health. Her work has been published widely in print and online outlets, including AARP, Parade, Family Circle, Weight Watchers, Spry, Prevention, WebMD, Everyday Health and many more. Sheryl lives in Fairfield County, CT., with husband Alan and new puppy Annie, and is the mother of two grown sons, Jonathan and Jeremy.

Medically reviewed by:

Sharon D. Malone

Dr. Sharon Malone is among the nation’s leading obstetrician / gynecologists with a focus on the specific health challenges associated with menopause.