So, when does Menopause Begin and End?
Menopause is something that affects all women at some stage in their lives. Although it can be uncomfortable, it is a natural part of the aging process. Even so, many women who suffer from menopausal symptoms wonder how long they will last.
So, when does menopause begin and end? Let’s take a look.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural process that occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing estrogen. It usually happens gradually, over the course of several years. However, some women can experience sudden menopause after having their ovaries or uterus removed, or undergoing treatments like chemotherapy.
It is essential to understand the difference between menopause, perimenopause, and menopausal symptoms. People often use these terms interchangeably, but there is actually a subtle difference in their meaning.
The term menopause means that a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months or more. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause itself, during which menopausal symptoms can occur.
Some of the issues that women experience during this timeframe include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles.
- Hot flashes.
- Night sweats.
- Mood changes.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Low libido.
- Memory problems.
- Musculoskeletal pain.
Some of these problems can continue even after the final menstrual period. However, the exact duration of menopausal symptoms varies from woman to woman.
The Stages of Menopause: When Does It End?
It is possible to divide the menopausal period into three distinct stages:
- Perimenopause: the months or years leading up to the final menstrual period.
- Menopause: officially defined as 12 months after the final menstrual period.
- Post-menopause: from 12 months after the final menstrual period onward.
Perimenopause usually begins in a woman’s mid-40s. However, it can happen much earlier or later in some women. The exact duration of the perimenopause can also differ greatly.
Some women experience symptoms for several years before their final period. Others might not notice any significant changes until their periods stop altogether.
This makes it very difficult to predict precisely when menopause will end. However, some factors that might play a role include:
- Age of puberty.
- General health.
Many women experience menopause at a similar time to their female relatives. Therefore, asking a mother, grandmother, or sister about when they went through menopause may provide some clues.
What is the Average Age for Women to Stop Experiencing Menopause?
The average age for a natural menopause in the U.S. is 51. However, it can occur any time between the ages of 40 and 58. Women who go through menopause before the age of 40 are classified as having “premature menopause” or “premature ovarian insufficiency”.
However, these figures only refer to the age of a woman at her final menstrual period. Unfortunately, menopausal symptoms can last for much longer. They may start as early as a woman’s 30s and, in some cases, may continue into her 60s.
On average, menopausal symptoms last for around four years after the final period and approximately seven years in total. But some women may suffer from menopausal symptoms for well over 10 years.
Some of the factors which make certain menopausal symptoms more likely include:
- Being African-American.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Stress and anxiety.
Therefore, women may be able to reduce the severity and duration of their menopausal symptoms by making some positive lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy body weight, stopping smoking, and managing stress could all have beneficial effects.
What Are the Signs of Menopause Ending?
In the lead up to the menopause, a woman’s periods may become less regular. She may also notice changes in their heaviness or duration of bleeding.
Once a woman has not had a period for 12 months or more she has officially gone through the menopause. After this, any symptoms she has been experiencing should gradually begin to reduce. However, in many cases, they can still persist for several years.
Women who are suffering from severe menopausal symptoms should arrange a consultation with their physician. They will be able to discuss the various treatment options available and how they might offer some relief.
What to Expect After Menopause is Over
Once menopause is over, certain symptoms such as hot flashes should slowly begin to disappear. However, other issues such as vaginal dryness and low libido may continue even after the final menstrual period has ended.
Furthermore, after menopause, women have an increased risk of several chronic health issues, including:
- Weight gain.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease/dementia.
This is because estrogen has a protective effect on many of the body’s internal systems. Once estrogen production slows down, the risk of chronic disease steadily increases.
Therefore, it is critical that menopausal women eat well, exercise regularly, and take care of their general wellbeing. It is best to start putting these healthy habits in place as early as possible, even before the perimenopause begins.
Not only will this help to ensure that a woman stays healthy after the menopause, but it may also reduce the severity and duration of her symptoms throughout.