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Health practitioners and researchers define a natural menopause as one not due to a hysterectomy or oophorectomy. In a large cross sectional study of postmenopausal women, we found that the majority of women who report that their menopause was not natural gave a gynaecologic reason. However, 3% gave a major life event, such as divorce or bereavement. Age at menopause for women who had had a hysterectomy/oophorectomy was the same as that of women who reported that their periods has stopped because of a major life event—on average six years younger than that of women who described their menopause as natural. We suggest that women whose periods stop ‘naturally’ (from a medical perspective) but at a relatively young age perceive this as unnatural and search for an explanation for the early cessation of their menses.