Menopause

Menopause is a fact of life that affects every woman. It occurs when your ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone and is marked by not having a menstrual period for one year. Menopause, which is part of the natural aging process, usually happens after age 45 but may occur anywhere between age 40 and 55. The average age of menopause is 51.

Stages of Menopause

Menopause occurs gradually, and physicians typically classify its progression in three stages.

Perimenopause

  • This is the process of change that leads up to menopause.
  • It begins anywhere from your late 30s to early 50s and can last from two to eight years.

Menopause

  • This is the point in a woman’s life when she has not had a menstrual period for one year.
  • Women reach menopause from their mid 40s to early 50s.

Postmenopause

  • Menopause symptoms disappear at this stage.
  • It lasts for the rest of your life.

Other Types of Menopause

For some women, menopause does not follow a natural progression. There are two main reasons this can happen:

  • Premature menopause: Menopause before age 40 can be caused by cancer drugs, genetics, autoimmune disorders or chromosomal abnormalities.
  • Surgical menopause: Menopause as a result of surgeries like a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) can happen at any age.

Symptoms of Menopause

Signs and symptoms of menopause start during perimenopause and are caused by fluctuating or decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone. They may include:

  • Changes in your periods: Periods may become longer, shorter, heavier or lighter. You may skip periods.
  • Hot flashes: You may feel sudden flashes of heat in your face, neck and upper body that lasts from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. They may occur infrequently or happen repeatedly throughout the day. You may also have blotches of redness on your face or neck.
  • Trouble sleeping: Hot flashes at night can cause night sweats that wake you up. You may also find that you wake up earlier.
  • Vaginal changes: Loss of estrogen causes your vaginal lining to become thinner and drier. This may cause painful intercourse and more frequent vaginal infections.
  • Urethral changes: Your urethra is the tube that caries urine from your bladder. Loss of estrogen can cause the lining of your urethra to become thin and dry, leading to more frequent urination, difficulty controlling urine (incontinence) and more frequent urinary tract infections.
  • Osteoporosis: Loss of estrogen causes thinning of your bones. This may increase your risk for fracture, especially of your hip, wrist or spine.
  • Mood swings.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
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