Menopause is a natural biological process that indicates the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. The condition occurs gradually but is diagnosed after 12 consecutive months without a period. Most women will experience natural menopause between the ages of 40 and 58, but induced menopause may occur earlier as a result of medical intervention. There are three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
- Perimenopause, commonly referred to as menopausal transition, is the time leading up to a woman’s last menstrual cycle. This stage can last between 4 to 8 years and is characterized by the body’s slowed production of estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate menstruation. During the last two years of this transitional stage, women begin to experience menopausal symptoms as their estrogen levels quickly drop.
- Menopause indicates the last menstrual cycle. The ovaries have stopped releasing eggs, and the body stops producing estrogen.
- Postmenopause is characterized by the lessening of menopausal symptoms.
Symptoms will vary by individual, but common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
- Irregular or skipped periods
- Mood swings
- Racing heart
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
- Changes in libido (sex drive)
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary Incontinence
Natural Menopause occurs when there is a natural decline of the reproductive hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Induced menopause is the result of medical intervention which can include hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or primary ovarian insufficiency.