Menopause is the natural end to menstruation. Menopause can start as early as 40 years old or as late as 60 years old. If menopause occurs prior to age 40, this is thought to be abnormal and is called premature menopause.
Menopause is the result of the depletion of egg cells from the ovaries and the reduction of female hormones. Menopause is considered complete when you have been without your period for a full year. Rather than a single point in time, menopause is a process or transitional period when women move away from the phase of life where reproduction is possible.
Menopause is a normal part of life. It marks the end of a long, slow process that begins when ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and progesterone. These female hormones are both important for normal menstrual cycles and successful pregnancy. Surgery to remove the ovaries, called an
, in premenopausal women causes menopause to begin prematurely. This is known as surgical menopause.
In addition to its role in reproduction, estrogen is an important hormone for maintaining bone health. It may also play important roles in heart health, skin elasticity, and brain function.
Stages of Menopause
Perimenopause: May begin 3-5 years before your last menstrual periodLasts about one year after your last menstrual periodSigns and symptoms may appear during this phase
Menopause: Complete cessation of menstrual periodsYou have had no menstrual periods for one year,
undergo surgical menopause, or have a blood test confirmation of menopauseChildbearing is no longer naturally possible
Postmenopause: Begins after your last menstrual periodYou no longer menstruate.The risk of certain health problems increases. These health problems include osteoporosis and vaginal dryness.
Menopause. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq047.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130416T1306377302. Published February 2013. Accessed February 27, 2014.
Menopause. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 3, 2014. Accessed February 27, 2014.
Menopause basics. US Department of Health and Human Services—Women's Health website. Available at:
http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/index.html. Updated September 29, 2010. Accessed February 27, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD, FACP
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