You Know You’ve Reached Menopause When…

Every woman who menstruates eventually experiences menopause. No matter how fit and active you are, menopause happens. Many women misunderstand or even dread menopause. And yet, it’s part of a woman’s natural biological process when fertility declines.

Your ovaries make less estrogen and progesterone, which causes some uncomfortable symptoms, but leads to a more mature you.

Menopause officially begins 12 months after your last menstrual period. This is an important milestone for one major reason: If you experience post-menopausal vaginal bleeding, it’s important to see your doctor as it may indicate a serious medical issue.

When you know the facts about the stages of menopause, you can take a more active role in managing the symptoms that come with it.

Menopause Age—What's the Average?

Your hormones can begin decreasing in your 30s and may continue well into your 40s and 50s. This is called perimenopause (or the transition to menopause) for most women.

The average age of menopause for US women is 51. Most women reach this milestone somewhere between ages 45 and 55. 

Menopause Symptoms

As your hormones decline, you may experience many physical and emotional changes. This is called perimenopause. Every woman is different, but the common symptoms of perimenopause include these:

  • irregular periods
  • vaginal dryness
  • hot flashes
  • chills
  • night sweats
  • insomnia
  • moodiness
  • weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • thinning hair
  • dry skin
  • loss of breast fullness

Don’t panic. For most women, menopause is a gradual progression and symptoms may come and go. Although menopause can’t be reversed, there’s good news: Your doctor can help you navigate these perimenopause symptoms with treatments that are right for you.

Causes of Menopause

When your ovaries slow their production of estrogen and progesterone, perimenopause begins. Aside from natural aging, the following are other reasons why this decline in hormones might take place:

  • Total hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy—Surgery that removes both your uterus and your ovaries will cause immediate menopause.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy—Cancer therapies can induce menopause, causing symptoms such as hot flashes during or shortly after the course of treatment.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency—Although rare, some women experience early menopause (before the age of 40) due to genetic factors or autoimmune disease.

Menopause Treatment

There is no cure for menopause, but your doctor can help manage many of your symptoms through prescribed treatments, as well as home remedies. You should always talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies.

Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Hormone therapy: Helps reduce hot flashes and may prevent bone loss.
  • Vaginal estrogen: Relieves vaginal dryness, discomfort during sex, and some urinary symptoms.
  • Low-dose antidepressants: Help reduce hot flashes and mood disorders.
  • Gabapentin: Help reduce hot flashes.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements or other osteoporosis treatments: Strengthens bones
  • Vaginal lubricants: Increases comfort during sex.
  • Incontinence treatments: Various lifestyle changes and medical options for gaining bladder control.
  • Herbal and dietary supplements: May relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
  • Exercise: Stimulates heart and bone health. Maintains healthy weight. Helps with sleep.
  • Diet: Helps manage healthy weight.

Read more about perimenopause symptoms and treatment.

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Postmenopause

Although menopause doesn’t exactly end, twelve months after your ovaries stop producing eggs and you have no more periods, you are considered postmenopausal. But take heart, menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, often decrease or even end over the years.

When Should You See A Doctor About Menopause Symptoms?

With all the changes happening in your body during menopause it can be difficult to know what’s normal and what’s not. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms that cause discomfort or disruption in your daily life.

If you experience sudden weight loss or gain, or abdominal pain, swelling, and tenderness let your doctor know as these may indicate a more serious condition. If you experience vaginal bleeding after you’ve reached menopause (12 months after your last period), talk to your doctor.