Menopause is the process that occurs when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends. Once a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months, she has reached menopause.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average age for women to reach menopause is 51. But, it tends to happen sometime in the 40s or 50s.
Menopause is a completely natural process that all women experience. Once they go through this time in their lives, they can no longer have children.
Menopause is a term that describes the changes women go through before their periods stop, or afterward.
Stages of Menopause
There are three stages of menopause. This can be a slow process that takes many years. Everyone is different as far as what they experience.
Perimenopause is the very beginning of the transition into menopause. This time leads up to a woman’s last period.
Some women stay in this stage for several years. Hormone levels tend to change during this time. This can cause a host of unexpected and unpleasant symptoms.
It is normal to have irregular periods during this time. They may be longer or shorter, and skipped periods are common.
The term menopause is used to describe the time in a woman’s life when her period ends. Women typically begin experiencing hormonal changes in their mid-40s. It can take as long as 8 to 10 years to reach this point once the process starts.
Sometimes menopause will begin earlier for some. If this occurs, doctors call it premature menopause, and it happens in about 5% of women.
Some women find that typical menopause symptoms (such as hot flashes) start before their periods stop. These symptoms can continue for many years.
Once a woman’s period has stopped for 12 months, she enters the postmenopausal stage.
Many of the common menopause symptoms will go away at this point. Some symptoms may get milder, but not vanish completely.
At this stage, the risk for heart disease and osteoporosis increases. Women may want to consider talking with their doctors about medications that may help. Incorporating healthier lifestyle choices may also reduce their risk.
Menopause should not be considered a disease or sickness. It is a normal life stage that women naturally go through.
Women naturally experience menopause when levels of the hormones, estrogen, and progesterone begin to fall. These hormones are no longer needed for reproduction, and this change triggers menopause.
Premature menopause may be caused when a woman has surgery to remove her ovaries. There are a few additional reasons why a woman may go through premature menopause:
- Autoimmune disease.
- Turner’s syndrome, or another condition that can impact the body’s chromosomes.
- Mumps or tuberculosis.
Most women will experience menopause symptoms several years before actually going through menopause. Symptoms may be mild in the beginning, and then become more severe.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Problems with concentration
- Changes in the menstrual cycle (heavier/lighter, longer/shorter)
- Sleep problems
- Hair loss
- Hair growth on the face
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
For most women, going through menopause requires no medical treatment or intervention. Doctors can prescribe medications to help relieve symptoms.
The following may be recommended:
- Taking an antidepressant – This can help with hot flashes.
- Vaginal estrogen – This is a cream, ring, or tablet that can help with dryness.
- Hormone therapy – Estrogen therapy may be used to help with hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms.
Doctors may recommend several medications for menopause symptoms. The following are common: