Your mum went through menopause early
The average age of menopause is 51, according to the US National Institute on Aging, but for some women, it can start in their 40s or even younger. While early menopause occurs between 40 and 45, “we define premature ovarian failure as menopause before age 40,” says Dr Patricia Pollio. “There are some genetic or inherited risk factors,” she says. One National Institutes of Health study found a significant connection between lower levels of ovarian reserve, as marked by the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), in women whose mothers went through early menopause. “If your mother had an early menopause, you are six times as likely to have the same experience,” says Dr Sharmila Makhija, chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health at Montefiore Health System, New York.
You’ve had surgery on your uterus or ovaries
Not surprisingly, removing both ovaries causes immediate surgical menopause, because they are responsible for the release of hormones. But “even removing one ovary can result in a decrease in the total production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone,” Dr Makhija says. When women have hysterectomies (removal of the uterus), their ovaries are often left in place to prevent menopause, but Dr Makhija says that may not be enough to stave it off. “The removal of the uterus can cause this same surgical menopause since the blood supply to the ovaries is modified,” she explains.
You still smoke – or live with someone who does
If you’re a smoker, you already know it’s not good for you. “Smoking can lead women to transition to menopause up to two years earlier than expected,” Dr Makhija says. “This is a result of the anti-estrogen effects of nicotine.” Researchers led by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, found that women who’d smoked 100 cigarettes or more in their lives had a 26 per cent greater chance of hitting menopause before 50. Plus, the study also found that women who were exposed to the toxins of second-hand smoke on a regular basis at home or work also had a higher rate of earlier menopause.
Menopause has three distinct phases, find out what they are.