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Menopause fact file

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Premature menopause

Also known as Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency  (POI), premature menopause occurs when a woman runs out of eggs or has a low egg supply anytime before the age of 40. It occurs in one or two in every 100 women under the age of 40, and 1 in every 1000 women under the age of 30.

Symptoms are often the same as women going through natural menopause. Women experiencing these symptoms before age 40 must see their GP and have their hormones levels checked. The GP may recommend a baseline bone density scan and oestrogen replacement. Says Dr Andrew Murray, Medical Director at Fertility Associates in Wellington, “If the ovaries shut down early, there are implications for other areas of health, such as bone density, cardiovascular disease risk and some cancers. It is very appropriate that oestrogen is replaced until the age of normal menopause at around the age of 51.


Perimenopause is the period around menopause where women experience symptoms such as hot flushes and irregular periods. According to the British Columbia Medical Journal, women who are still having regular menstrual cycles are considered to be perimenopausal if they experience any three of the following:

  • New heavy and/or longer menstrual flow
  • Shorter menstrual cycle lengths (25 days or less)
  • New sore, swollen, and/or lumpy breasts
  • New or increased menstrual cramps
  • New mid-sleep wakening
  • Onset of night sweats, especially around flow
  • New or markedly increased migraine headaches
  • New or increased premenstrual mood swings
  • Notable weight gain without changes in exercise or food intake



Menopause is the natural point in time when a woman stops having periods. On average this happens at around 51 years of age. Menopause is usually confirmed when a woman has been period-free for 12 months. 

If you have any questions about menopause or believe you’re experiencing any symptoms discussed here, please talk to your Unichem Pharmacist or GP.