So you missed a period. Or two. You think to yourself, “I’m too young for menopause. Right?”

Not necessarily. Early menopause (between the ages of 40 and 45) affects about five percent of women. Premature menopause, before age 40, affects about one percent of women.

Without a big neon billboard saying, “Welcome to Menopause,” what should you do? Here are five things you should know:

1. Never too early to check.

Talk to your health care provider. If your periods change significantly (become noticeably longer or shorter or vary markedly from your usual schedule) or stop altogether for three cycles before age 45, make an appointment for an evaluation. Missing periods can be a sign of other health concerns, too. If you are experiencing premature or early menopause, you’re at risk for multiple long-term health consequences, including heart disease, dementia, Parkinsonism and osteoporosis, unless you take hormone therapy — aptly termed hormone “replacement” therapy under these circumstances. Your health care provider can help determine if you are, indeed, experiencing premature or early menopause.

2. Utilize hormone therapy.

Hormone therapy is vital for lessening the long-term health consequences associated with early or premature menopause. Unless there is a clear reason to avoid hormone therapy in your particular situation, using hormone therapy at least until the natural age of menopause (around age 51) is recommended by The North American Menopause Society and other professional medical societies. However, hormone therapy may not alleviate all of the changes associated with early estrogen loss, particularly mood changes and sexual dysfunction.

3. Your family plans may change.

If you wish to have a family, you may need to consider options such as freezing embryos or eggs. If you had planned to have children, you may need to allow yourself to envision a new dream, such as building your family through in vitro fertilization with donor eggs, adoption or surrogacy.

4. You can get your sexy back.

If you are experiencing low sexual desire or vaginal dryness, talk to your health care provider.  Hormonal treatment with estrogen may help with vaginal dryness. For some women with low sexual desire who go through menopause early or prematurely, testosterone therapy may even be appropriate. Talk to your partner, as well. Good communication is associated with higher sexual satisfaction.

5. You may need extra support.

If you are in early or premature menopause, you may need extra time and support to come to terms with your diagnosis and the consequences, including the potential long-term health impact and loss of fertility. Sharing your concerns with your partner, friends and your health care provider or psychologist can help. Understanding what is happening to your body and what you can do about it is key.