Stress can bring on early menopause

By chance this morning, I ended up having a long telephone conversation with Sheila, a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while.  I say by chance, because I had arranged to talk to her husband about a work matter. Much to Sheila’s embarrassment, he had forgotten our appointment and was having the time of his life racing cars in Wales.

His forgiveable forgetfulness gave us the time to catch up together.  Two years ago Sheila’s husband had been diagnosed with a life threatening illness and their lives changed radically because of it.  Sheila faced this with immense courage and willingly took care of him when he came out hospital.  At the same time, she was supporting their two children, running the home, and trying to continue with her successful design business.

Fortunately, as the car racing suggests, her husband is doing very well (although he most certainly is not out of the woods yet)  but as our conversation progressed, she admitted that she was beginning to experience panic attacks at night. These were causing her considerable distress.

She then admitted that she was increasing caught up in disaster thinking.  ‘I know it’s daft,’ she said, ‘but when I drop my son off somewhere, I immediately get this image in my head that  he’s going to get mangled by a truck.  Sometimes, I think I’m going mad.’

It was the ‘sometimes, I think I’m going mad’ that raised my suspicions.  I asked her to remind me how she was.  ‘46’ she said.  ‘Any hot flushes?’ I asked.

‘Yes, loads.’

‘Feeling irritated?’

‘At times I could kill.’ she replied.

‘Ah’, I said, ‘sounds like this could also be the menopause.’

She was horrified. She was far too young for that.

The truth is, she isn’t.  Research now suggests that stress can and does bring on an early menopause.  Although, Sheila is unquestionably experiencing stress related symptoms (understandable with what she copes with on a daily basis), these symptoms can also be attributed to the onset of menopause.  When I explained this to her, Sheila was tremendously relieved, and decided then and there to talk to her doctor.

So, don’t be mistaken into thinking that the menopause only begins in your 50s. Even though the average age for a woman to go through the menopause in the UK is 51, early menopause affects around 1% of women under 40, and 0.1% under the age of 30.  If, similar to Sheila, you are coping with a constantly stressful situation, this can also bring on the menopause earlier than usual.  Do talk to your doctor about it.

A note from Sue: Thank you for visiting this page. You may be interested in my Granny Mo children’s books, which help adults to talk with children about death and dying, and my books for adults on death and dying may help as well. You can also listen to a host of fascinating guests on my Embracing Your Mortality podcast and enjoy reading their interviews on my blog.

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4 thoughts on “Stress can bring on early menopause

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  1. How relieved I feel to know that I am not the only woman of 45 that was begining to think she was going mad. Especially since I thought I must be mad to think I could be experiencing menopausal symptoms at my age!
    Yet, deep inside, as always, I knew, or rather I FELT menopausal. And I have been feeling so since I was 42!
    I have had enormous stress over the last five or six years, first with two unplanned and unexpected major ops, one in 2008 and another 2009.
    Then just as I was getting it all back together again, last year a family situation flared and I have been completely ostracised by my parents and only sibling. I have never cried so many tears as I cried last year. It was sheer, raw grief and all consuming.

    I have never had so many migraines either and of such intensity too although my GP is successfully tackling those with me now. These are all hormonal migraines too, due to the drop of oestrogen. What had been an occaisional thing suddenly became every month during PILL free week.
    The night sweats were the real give away though…..especially during a really cold winter! That’s when it ‘clicked’ with me! The memory problems, nothing serious but stupid stuff, feeling vague, that sort of thing. Unexplained and frequent sore throat was another one and sore down below too! Rapidly greying hair, especially since my family problems last year……..thank goodness for hair dye and a good hairdresser!
    The list of small, unexplainable but annoying things goes on and on, and grows bigger as the months pass.

    So yes, I do agree that severe emotional stress can indeed bring on the menopause sooner than it may have otherwise happened in a more stress free life.

    Best wishes,

  2. I was looking online for information about whether stress really could cause you to go into menopause/perimenopause early, and found your blog/website. I was trying to tell a friend of mine on Facebook that I had been told that by my midwife when she asked how old my mother was when she went thru menopause and I told her my mom said she was in her 50’s. I am 41 now, and have been going thru perimenopause since my daugher was born 7 years ago! It has been rough. It has been mostly emotional issues–being prone to anger outbursts and depression and dark moods/thoughts, etc. And my periods were more irregular and unpredictable, insomnia, lack of interest in sex (actually, pretty much none). I did have some hot flashes here and there, but not much. And I certainly have felt very stressed! Most of it has been marriage (been married twice, first marriage was abusive, second….issues carried in from first marriage), kids (4 kids, each about 1 and 1/2 to 2 years apart, ughh), and finances. Thanks for the information! 🙂

  3. I absolutely know that at age 42 my early menopause was brought on by stress as I had no ‘perimenopausal’ signs, just WHAM, the menopause all within 6 months and all following a VERY stressful time.

    6 months ago I was diagnosed with severe depression & was in a really dark place. Thyroid and blood tests were done to rule out any underlying medical conditions and all came back ‘normal’ other than sever anaemia, probally brought on by my long, heavy but regular periods & being a vegetarian.

    My husband, who I have allowed to control me since we met 8 years ago had worn me down and I was now unable to ‘fight back’. I had no confidence, was over eating, lethargic & had zero ‘get up and go’. I battled on, convincing myself that I could cure myself and refusing the medication (antidepressants) offered but the situation with my husband became too much and I found the strength to end it.

    I was in the process of viewing new properties to enable me & our son to leave the family home & move into a new house when my husband informed me that he wanted us to try again & would change. I had been an emotional wreck since the split and had covered just about every emotion in the book.I had lost 15 pounds in a month through not eating much & had suffered sever headaches & insomnia so when I missed a period I just figured it was as a result of rapid weight loss and stress.

    When the next month I missed another period yet had all the usual signs that my period was due (breast tenderness, cramping, PMT, headache) I went to my doctor who sent me to hospital for investigation. This week, the results are back and I am now coming to terms with the sad news that im going through premature menopause at age 42!!.

    There is no family history of early menopause (my mother was 49 when she had her last period & my sister is now 47 and showing no signs). I didnt start my periods at an early age (i was 14) and have looked after myself all my adult life (non smoker/drug user/drinker & a vegetarian since age 21 & never been overweight). The last 6months worth of stress can be the ONLY trigger and as I am seperated from my husband, this ends any chance of me starting a family with a new man I may meet.

  4. My partner died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 44 and I immediately went into early menopause so I’m convinced stress can cause it without a doubt

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