Women experience hormonal changes at every age, it seems. First starting with puberty and moving all the way through the end of menopause, they live with PMS, fertility issues, hot flashes and mood swings.
When women start to head into their late 30s and early 40s, hormones can really become symptomatic. Women who experience this start to wonder, is this menopause?
Depending on the study, the average age of natural menopause ranges from 47 to 52 years old while surgical menopause (done at a young age) tends to occur between 40 and 44 years old.
This can be confusing to many who are having symptoms and in their early forties. This time of mild to severe chaos is often known as perimenopause -- that span before the periods stop completely for at least 12 months.
Typically, menopausal symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood swings, irregular periods, heavier periods and unexplained weight gain around the middle.
Other symptoms are vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, painful sex, joint pain, brain fog, short-term memory issues, hair loss, hair thinning, dry skin and more.
All of these symptoms can range from mild to severe, be constant or come and go.
Research has shown that women tend to follow the other women in their family when it comes to the age they'll reach menopause. However certain factors may cause a woman to move into menopause sooner than she was expecting.
These factors can include smoking, endometriosis, abdominal surgery, removal of one or both ovaries, and environmental toxicity such as that caused by phthalates.
Testing may be difficult as menstrual cycles may be erratic and difficult to predict however the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) blood test done on day 2-3 of the cycle can help tell if someone is heading into or close to menopause.
The FSH hormone is secreted by the brain in order to stimulate the ovary to produce eggs. The fewer eggs there are, the higher the FSH level.
Depending on your health care provider and the lab, an FSH level over about 21mIU/ml strongly correlates with low to no ovarian reserve and thus being in a more perimenopausal or menopausal state.
Sadly, there is no test to predict when menopause will actually occur or when the symptoms will end. Additional hormone testing may include estradiol and progesterone testing done in the second half of the cycle, typically on day 19-21 of a 28-31 day cycle.
Talk with your health care provider about possible testing and suggestions for helping to get control of unmanageable symptoms. There are treatment options that range from lifestyle changes, to herbs and vitamins, and hormone replacement.
Brooks, M. Removal of One Ovary Linked to Earlier Age at Menopause: Study. Web. 20 May, 2014. Retrieved from
Iverson, P., and Hannaford, P. What Influences the Timing of Menopause. Web. 20 May, 2014. Retrieved from
Melville, N. Chemical Endocrine Disruptors Linked to Early Menopause. Web. 20 May, 2014. Retrieved from
Storck, S., Zieve, D, Black, B., and the A.D.A.M Editorial Team. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Blood Test. Web. 20 May, 2014. Retrieved from
Reviewed May 21, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith