Is Your Menopause Experience Genetic? The Facts | Stella
Your body
9 mins

Is your menopause experience genetic?

byDr. Lucy Wilkinson

People love to compare facial features and spot similarities between family members such as hair colour, height and mannerisms. But what about menopause? If your mum had an early menopause, will you? Will your symptoms be the same? We look at the latest research and share everything you need to know.

What are genes and why do they matter?

Genes are a blueprint for your body. Made up of a series of proteins coiled into a spiral form, genes contain codes for everything your body needs to know. You inherit half of your genes from your mother and half from your father.

Everything in your body exists because it is coded in your genes. From eyes to teeth to muscles, genes contain the instructions your body needs to create and maintain organs and tissues. The same goes for everything your body does, from movement to digestion. 

Genes can influence your health. Some put you more at risk of certain conditions, while others reduce your risk or protect you from poor health.

Some conditions can be caused by a single gene, but it’s more common for illnesses to be polygenic, which means they are caused by a combination of genes. This seems to be the case for menopause. 

Will you go through menopause at the same age as your mum?

The average age at menopause is around 50 years old in most of the Western world. Research shows that Black, indigenous and other people of color are more likely to experience an earlier menopause with longer-lasting symptoms.

Early menopause is when you have your final period by the age of 45, while premature menopause is when this happens before age 40. 

Genes do influence your age at menopause, but they’re not the only thing that counts. There is no guarantee that you’ll go through menopause at the same age as your mum, but her experience might give you a few clues about what to expect.


Women with the highest number of certain genes are around four times more likely to go through early menopause. Your genes can also predict starting menopause at a more typical age – around 50.

It is understood that this is caused by the combination of different genes. These can come from your father or your mother, or – more likely – a combination of both. It might help to learn more about your paternal side’s experience of menopause, as well as your maternal side.

What else affects your menopause age and experience?

Your genes influence your menopause symptoms but other factors are also important. These include:

  • Your lifestyle choices, such as your BMI and if you drink alcohol or smoke
  • Your general health, such as any other health problems and previous surgeries
  • Your environment, such as your type of work and the neighbourhood you live in
  • Psychological factors including depression, anxiety and health anxiety

Lifestyle choices

Your lifestyle choices also have an impact on what age you reach menopause. Smoking is thought to account for 5% of the risk of early menopause. This may sound small, but the top 17 menopause-linked genetic variants added together make up the same percentage of risk as smoking. 

We also know that being underweight is associated with early and premature menopause. If you are concerned about early menopause, it’s worth trying to maintain a BMI in the optimal, 18-25 range. Healthy lifestyle choices really can influence when you go through menopause.

Cultural differences

Your religion and culture can also have a big impact on the way you react to and talk about your symptoms. It has become more culturally acceptable to talk about menopause and women’s health in general over the past decade, but this is not the case for everyone. 

Menopause may be more difficult to manage if you don’t feel able to talk about your symptoms. Everyone has a unique menopause experience and it can help to talk to others about how you are feeling and coping as they may be struggling with similar things. Not ready to strike up a conversation in the cafe? It’s not always easy! Reading our collection of menopause experience stories might help you make some sense of your challenges.

Which genetic conditions are linked to premature or early menopause?

We don’t know the exact combination of genes behind premature menopause in 90% of cases. For the remaining 10%, there are a few common patterns and associated conditions. 

X-autosomal translocations

This means that a few of your genes have swapped places. It is common and quite often goes unnoticed, but can contribute to early menopause in a few cases.

Turner syndrome

One in 2,000 women have Turner syndrome. This is when you inherit only one X chromosome – women usually have two, while men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Turner syndrome usually happens as a new mutation, meaning that it’s not common for Turner syndrome to run in families.

Fragile X syndrome

This is caused by a faulty gene on your X chromosome. It’s the most common inherited cause of learning difficulties and it can also make premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) up to five times more likely.

Other conditions

Other inherited medical conditions can also indirectly contribute to early or premature menopause. About 5% of cases of premature menopause, when you are under age 40, are thought to be caused by an autoimmune condition such as thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Many autoimmune conditions are partly genetic. 

Type 2 diabetes can also increase your risk of premature menopause by up to 300%. Obesity can contribute to type 2 diabetes, but it is also partly genetic.

Is there a genetic test for premature or early menopause?

This is currently the subject of heated debate. It would be great if everyone knew when to expect their menopause, but, there is no genetic test currently available that can predict your age at menopause with any accuracy.

This is because genes are only one part of the story when it comes to menopause. Your health is a result of the complex interaction between your genes, environment and chance.

So while testing might tell you which genes you have, there is no certainty that having these genes will mean early menopause. In fact one recent study found that 98% of women who had ‘high risk’ genes for premature menopause actually went through menopause after 40.

Likewise, you can still go through early or premature menopause even if you don’t have any ‘high risk’ genes.

Will your menopause symptoms be the same as your mum’s? 

It’s difficult to predict whether your menopause symptoms will be the same as your mum, sister or daughter. Everyone’s menopause experience is different, even within families. Having said that, many people find similarities.

Research is beginning to find genetic reasons to explain patterns within families. For example, the SULT1A1 gene provides the code for how your body processes oestrogen. This gene seems to predict the age of menopause, plus the type and severity of menopause symptoms you will experience, such as night sweats and sleep problems. 

This is only the beginning. Research continues and scientists hope that one day there will be enough to provide personalised menopause care based on your genetic makeup, although this is still a long way off! 

Final word

Your genes can predict your age at menopause and some of the symptoms you experience. However, scientists are still learning about exactly which genes are responsible and how this information can be used to help people.

Effective treatment options are available whatever your age, menopause stage or symptoms. If you would like to find out more, speak to your doctor or explore our blog to learn more about how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or lifestyle change could help you.