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How can I Tell if I'm Beginning Menopause?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Menopause, the end of a woman’s monthly ovulation and monthly menstrual periods, occurs on average at about the age of 51. This is an average number, which doesn’t take into account great variance. Some women begin menopause much sooner, and others much later. One of the predicting factors is the age your own mother began menopause. While menopause itself, when periods and ovulation truly stop is usually easy to recognize, it’s not so easy to recognize whether you’re beginning menopause, and going through the stage called perimenopause or premenopause, which can occur as early as 15 years before your periods actually stop. There are some signs and symptoms you may be beginning menopause, in addition to medical tests that can help you decide if this change of life is on its way.

As early as their thirties, some women may feel they are starting menopause because of changes to their monthly cycle. Periods may become heavier or lighter. If you’ve had a predictable cycle in the past, this can change, and periods may happen either more or less frequently, and occur unexpectedly. Just as when you began your period, it’s a good idea to keep maxi pads or tampons with you in case an unexpected period occurs.

When beginning menopause, women may also note slight changes to premenstrual symptoms. Cramping or heavier bleeding may occur, headaches are common, and mood swings or depression may be present not only during or before your period, but also during the rest of the month. Vaginal dryness may occur more readily, making intercourse uncomfortable without added lubrication.

As estrogen begins to decline, women may also note other perimenopausal symptoms, like accumulation of fat around the waist, and weight in general may be harder to lose. Don’t despair; it’s still possible to lose weight, especially if you focus on daily exercise and good diet. Strength training can really help, since slightly greater muscle mass helps you to burn a greater amount of calories.

While still in your thirties or forties, even if you think you’re starting menopause, it’s important to get this supposition checked out by a physician. Spotting between periods, which you might just consider as irregular periods, can indicate conditions like fibroids, or in some cases uterine cancer. Even if you think your menstruation days are nearly over, regular yearly gynecological checks are still very important.

What physicians can do to determine whether you are close to menopause is measure your estrogen blood levels, usually specifically taken and measured on about the third day of your period. This is a simple blood test, but it may need to be repeated for several months to get an accurate reading of whether your estrogen levels are truly declining. Since each woman may have varied levels of estrogen each month, measuring several months worth of data can give your physician a fairly accurate way to determine just about how many months/years you have left before truly beginning menopause.

As true menopause nears, other symptoms do start to emerge. Most recognizable of these is the hot flash, a truly uncomfortable experience that can cause you to flush, sweat profusely, or suddenly simply feel as if you’ve stepped into the Sahara, even if it’s below freezing outside. Hot flashes are part of perimenopause and can continue for several years after menopause has occurred.

It’s important to remember that when you are beginning menopause, you are still quite able to get pregnant. Babies born to women in their late 40s, until recently were usually called “change” babies; yet now many women are waiting to have children until they are older. Do take a lesson from past generations on this, though, if you don’t want to have a child or more children. Starting menopause does not mean you are infertile, and precautions should still be taken to prevent pregnancy until a couple years after your last menstrual period.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon948128 — On Apr 28, 2014

@anon319808 -- My daughter at the age 15 stopped her periods, after a year of having them and she ended up having a major pituitary problem. The biggest sign was weight gain. If your issue sounds anything like this then you should probably get checked at the doctor. Good luck.

By anon927203 — On Jan 22, 2014

I am 35 years old and am experiencing all of these symptoms. My doctor told me that since I had children at a young age (the first being born when I was 17), that it is likely that I will begin menopause at an early age. Based on this article, it sounds like my next step should be to contact my doctor and schedule some monthly blood tests to start tracking estrogen levels.

By anon352206 — On Oct 20, 2013

@anon16862: I am a 42 year old female and I am going through the same thing. I swear I am in labor, it hurts so bad. Did you find out anything?

By anon346547 — On Aug 29, 2013

My wife is 49 years old and she has not had her periods for about two months. Is this normal?

By anon341132 — On Jul 08, 2013

I have been experiencing hot flashes for approximately two weeks now. I am also experiencing feeling hopeless and helpless -- depression. I feel like I am losing control of my circumstances. I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time. I am 51 years of age. This is a horrible experience for women to go through.

I have noticed extreme weight gain especially around my middle, back, buttocks, and arms. I have lost 12 pounds in two weeks because I don't feel sexy any longer. I wish this would pass, but it has just begun.

By anon339411 — On Jun 23, 2013

I'm going to be 42 and I had a hysterectomy after I had my kid 17 years ago. I was wondering if having a hysterectomy would be a factor in menopause.

By anon325922 — On Mar 19, 2013

I am 47 years old and I am about a month and half late in getting my period. Could this be the beginning of perimenopause?

By anon325044 — On Mar 13, 2013

I'm a 42 year old woman and suddenly my period stopped. Is this natural?

By anon319808 — On Feb 14, 2013

I'm just a little girl and I'm pretty sure I have the symptoms of this.

By anon318984 — On Feb 10, 2013

I started my first menstruation when I was fifteen years old. From then until I was 42 years old, my periods were regular and lasts up to five days. When I turned 43, my menstruation cycle has changed a lot. Sometimes I skip my monthly period for about two months. Is this a normal changes for a woman like me? Maybe I am entering premenopause?

By anon314996 — On Jan 21, 2013

Can a woman get pregnant after 10 years of her menopause without any precautions?

By anon313600 — On Jan 12, 2013

I am 26 and for the past six years I might get two to three periods a year. Now I might get one to two a year. They are very heavy and I get lower back cramps. When I had my daughter at 22 I had back labor. Could this cause my back cramping? Also, I might spot for a day or two in between my periods. I get hot flashes no matter if it's hot or cold, and I have been having a lot of mood swings. Could this be menopause?

By anon294056 — On Sep 29, 2012

I am 63 years old and in good health. I have not had any menopausal symptoms, e.g., hot flushes, night sweats, but I have been feeling very tired, have had bleeding for approx a month (on and off) and have had to use a tampon most days. Do you think 63 is old for starting the menopause? I have spoken to my doctor and she thinks I am going through menopause. I have not had any tests. I must admit, I am a little worried.

By anon272681 — On Jun 02, 2012

I'm 24 years old. I think I have early menopause. Can I buy estrogen pills or should I talk to a doctor first?

By anon253987 — On Mar 11, 2012

Is it abnormal that you begin your cycle after going through change 30 years ago due to breast cancer and chemo?

By anon154736 — On Feb 21, 2011

I am 36 years old, and i just got married last year. I've started having hot flashes and i feel that my estrogen is low. i have irregular period and dry hair. please help me understand what's happening to me. i want to have a baby.

By anon147458 — On Jan 29, 2011

I am a 40 year old north Indian lady. for last six month I have been having irregular menses. for example, the last three times, the periods have again started with 10-14 days of previous periods. Am I reaching the stage of Pre Menopause? Can I get pregnant now and get a healthy child?

By anon124546 — On Nov 06, 2010

I really don't know what's happening. I'm 46 and have had bad sweating for about a year not just at night, but all the time, even the slightest bit of activity and I'm sweating. it's so awful. do you think i could be starting the menopause?

By anon102857 — On Aug 09, 2010

I had the Novasure procedure done three years ago because I had very heavy periods. I was 50 at the time. I almost completely quit having any periods and now three years later (when I thought I may have already gone through menopause) I started having a few light periods again! And my headaches and cramps are back. Might the procedure have to be done again?

By anon90575 — On Jun 16, 2010

anon23698- I have had exactly the same thing, but it was after my tubal at age 26. I am now 32 and have all the symptoms of menopause. I have had hormone testing, and it confirms I'm in perimenopause. Get hormone testing done. It's the only way you'll know your levels. Then the OB/GYN can put you on a hormone replacement program if needed.

By anon35205 — On Jul 03, 2009

Novasure Ablation. I had this procedure done on 5th Feb 2009, to combat excessive bleeding/anemia. Since then I have noticed more breast tension and cramping during periods. More recently I have noticed night sweats and insomnia. I think I am beginning the menopause, yet before the procedure my FSH levels were normal. I am 48 years old.

By anon23698 — On Dec 31, 2008

Hi I am a 33 year old that has a procedure called Novasure done about 2 years ago. I recently have been having very bad night sweats happening for about 2 weeks now. I'm not sure if this is perimenopause or if it could be something else. I have also had pretty bad headaches and breast soreness on and off also with the night sweats. Has anyone else experienced these problems and if so I would greatly appreciate some feed back on what to do or how to deal with this!

By anon16862 — On Aug 16, 2008

I had a hysterectomy 11 years ago. Right now I'm 44. How can I know if I'm beginning menopause? Sometimes I really start sweating but I don't know if it's a hot flash. When do I get my estrogen's levels checked?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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