Signs of Late Menopause

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Menopause is when a woman stops having her period permanently. Most women reach menopause, on average, by age 51 or 52. However, this is an average and ages vary. Some women experience delayed menopause in their late 50s or early 60s. Timing varies due to genetics, lifestyle, menstrual cycle patterns, and medications. 

This article reviews what menopause is, its symptoms, the factors that affect timing, and when to notify your healthcare provider. 

Language Considerations

The words "woman" and "women" are used here to refer to people who identify as women and have typical reproductive organs of a cisgender female. We recognize that some people who identify as women do not have the same anatomy as that depicted in this article.

Woman feeling stressed sitting alone on sofa

Nattakorn Maneerat / Getty Images

What Is Menopause?

Menopause occurs when women have not had a menstrual cycle (period) for 12 months in a row. It is considered the permanent end to menstruation. While menopause usually comes naturally, surgical removal of the ovaries, some medical treatments, and certain diseases can cause premature menopause.

During perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause, the levels of hormones produced by the ovaries decrease. The first symptom is typically a change in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

What Is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause generally starts in a woman’s 40s. During this time, she may experience irregular, heavier, or lighter menstrual cycles. The transition from perimenopause to menopause can take two to eight years.

Signs of Late Menopause

Natural menopause is a gradual process that happens over several years. While most women reach menopause by 51 or 52 years old, this is an average—everyone’s timing is different. If you are a woman in your late 50s or early 60s who is wondering why you still have a period, you may be experiencing late-onset menopause.

For women who are experiencing signs of perimenopause, menopause may be just around the corner. The first sign is lighter or heavier, skipped, or irregular menstrual cycles. Other symptoms that occur in the later stages of perimenopause include:

Insomnia (trouble sleeping), hot flashes, and vaginal dryness may last several years after menopause.

Average Menopause Age

Women typically reach menopause in their early 50s. Early menopause occurs before age 45. It is considered premature anytime before age 40 and delayed menopause when women reach it in their late 50s or early 60s.

Causes

The following factors may affect the age a woman enters menopause:

  • Smoking: Smokers typically enter menopause a couple of years earlier than nonsmokers. Particles in cigarette smoke cause the ovaries to stop functioning and to produce less estrogen. Women who smoke more than 14 cigarettes per day enter menopause almost three years before nonsmokers.
  • Alcohol consumption: Some studies show an association between drinking alcohol regularly and later menopause. More research is needed regarding amounts and types of alcohol that affect menopausal onset.
  • Birth control: Research suggests a link between having used oral contraceptives (birth control) and a late start to menopause. It is unclear if the delay is because the pill helps mask symptoms or truly delays the process. Some healthcare providers believe the pill makes the transition easier or less noticeable rather than causing the delay.
  • Food choices: Several foods can affect the timing of menopausal onset.

What Foods Affect Menopause?

Details about how lifelong food choices may affect menopause onset include:

  • Diets high in fruits, vegetables, and protein may cause delay.
  • Meat-eaters are more likely to experience delay than vegetarians.
  • High intake of oily fish and fresh legumes may delay onset by 3.3 years.
  • Higher intake of vitamin B6 and zinc may delay onset by about six months.
  • Carbohydrates such as refined pasta and rice are associated with earlier menopause.

Risk Factors

If your mother experienced menopause later in life, there is a chance you will as well. Other factors include weight, menstrual cycle patterns, estrogen levels, and pregnancies.

  • Genetics: Genetics determines the onset of menopause about half of the time. This factor is most relevant if your mother entered menopause naturally rather than from surgery or an illness.
  • Obesity: Overweight and obese women have a 50% higher risk of late menopause than other women. Fat tissue produces and stores estrogen, which delays its depletion.
  • Menstrual cycle patterns: Women who started menstruating late, had lifelong irregularities, or have naturally high estrogen levels may experience later menopause.
  • Pregnancies: The timing and number of pregnancies you’ve had may delay onset.

When Can Pregnancy Affect Menopause?

These aspects of pregnancy can affect the onset of menopause:

  • Experiencing your first pregnancy later in life
  • Having one of your children later in life 
  • Having at least one child 
  • Multiple pregnancies

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are still experiencing a menstrual cycle in your late 50s or early 60s, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. During your appointment, you may be asked about your menstrual cycle and symptoms. This will help your provider identify if you are in menopause. 

They may also check your blood for levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which helps control the menstrual cycle, or estradiol, the main form of estrogen (primary sex hormone in women). FSH levels fluctuate, so these tests may need to be traced over time. FSH levels in blood fluctuate during perimenopause and decrease after menopause.

Summary

Menopause is when a woman stops having her period permanently, for 12 months in a row. While most women reach menopause by 51 or 52, this is an average and varies. Late menopause can occur in a woman’s upper 50s or early 60s. Genetics, lifestyle, menstrual cycle patterns, and medications are factors that affect timing. 

A Word From Verywell

The timing of menopause is different for all women. If you’ve reached your late 50s or early 60s and are still having a period, you may feel concerned. If this is the case, talk with your healthcare provider. Together, you can discuss the possible reasons for the delay and your provider can order tests if needed. Ruling out concerns can help you feel more comfortable about late-onset menopause.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age does menopause normally start?

    Perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her 40s or 50s, with the average age of menopause being 51 or 52 years old.

  • How long does menopause last?

    The transition from perimenopause to menopause can take two to eight years. A woman will know she has reached menopause when she stops having periods permanently, which is indicated when there have been no periods for 12 months in a row. Hot flashes can last four to 10 years after menopause.

  • Do all women experience menopause?


    Yes. Menopause typically occurs naturally. However, it is sometimes brought on by surgery, medical treatments, or diseases. 

  • How early can menopause start?

    The average age a woman reaches natural menopause is 51 to 52. Menopause is considered early when it occurs before age 45 and premature when it starts before age 40.

Was this page helpful?
15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Office on Women’s Health. Menopause basics.

  2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. My periods have changed. Is menopause around the corner?.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Wellness and Prevention. Did I just have a hot flash? I’m 44?.

  4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: (NIH) National Institute on Aging. What is menopause?

  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Introduction to menopause.

  6. Sapre S, Thakur R. Lifestyle and dietary factors determine age at natural menopause. J Midlife Health. 2014;5(1):3-5. doi:10.4103/0976-7800.127779.

  7. Ceylan B, Özerdoğan N. Factors affecting age of onset of menopause and determination of quality of life in menopause. Turk J Obstet Gynecol. 2015;12(1):43-49. doi:10.4274/tjod.79836.

  8. Taneri P, Kiefte-de Jong J, Bramer W, Daan N, Franco O, Muka T. Association of alcohol consumption with the onset of natural menopause: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Hum Reprod Update. 2016;22(4):516-528. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmw013.

  9. Freeman J, Whitcomb B, Purdue-Smithe A et al. Is Alcohol Consumption Associated With Risk of Early Menopause? Am J Epidemiol. 2021;190(12):2612-2617. doi:10.1093/aje/kwab182.

  10. Roman Lay A, do Nascimento C, Horta B, Dias Porto Chiavegatto Filho A. Reproductive factors and age at natural menopause: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas. 2020;131:57-64. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.10.012..

  11. Perry S. Does birth control delay menopause?. Gennev.

  12. Dunneram Y, Greenwood D, Burley V, et al. Dietary intake and age at natural menopause: Results from the UK women’s cohort study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2018;72(8):733-740. doi: 10.1136/jech-2017-209887.

  13. Laven J. Genetics of early and normal menopause. Semin Reprod Med. 2015;33(6):377-83. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1567825.

  14. Zhu D, Chung H, Pandeya N et al. Body mass index and age at natural menopause: An international pooled analysis of 11 prospective studies. Eur J Epidemiol. 2018;33(8):699-710. doi:10.1007/s10654-018-0367-y.

  15. National Library of Medicine (NIH). Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels test. MedlinePlus.