A test could help women to find out whether they are at risk of an early menopause.
Researchers at the University of Exeter Peninsula Medical School found four genes which in combination could mean some women go through the menopause earlier.
Typically, a women goes through the menopause around the age of 51 but some have their last period in their 40s.
Study leader Anna Murray said: "Those who are destined to have an early menopause and delay childbearing until their 30s are more likely to have problems conceiving."
Women taking part in the research were participants in the Breakthrough Generations Study, an investigation into the causes of breast cancer.
A total of 2,000 women who had experienced early menopause were compared with a matched number who had not.
DNA tests identified the four genes that each raise the risk of an early menopause.
The findings were published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.
Professor Anthony Swerdlow, from the Institute of Cancer Research, principal investigator of the Breakthrough Generations Study, said: "This may in turn allow women to make informed decisions about their future fertility."