What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life from a reproductive stage to a non-reproductive stage.  Every woman who survives the middle-age stage of life will naturally enter menopause usually between the ages of 40 – 58 years.  In the United States, the average age of menopause is approximately 51 years of age with the expected life expectancy to be approximately 84 years of age.  As you can see, this means a woman (like you!) can spend up to 40% of her life in post-menopause.

Many terms may be confusing…. And I’d like to clarify them for you.

Menopause is literally one point in time defined as 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle.  This is also referred to as “Natural Menopause”.

Surgical Menopause refers to the stop of menstrual cycles due to surgical removal of the ovaries or complete loss of ovarian function due to chemotherapy, pelvic radiation or other toxic causes.

Post-menopause refers to the time after menopause – days and years after this time-defined menopause point has been reached.  Some women may experience major symptoms for a short period of time, some for 3-5 years, and some women for longer.  Approximately, 10-15 % of women will continue to experience hot flashes and night sweats for their entire lives.

Perimenopause, literally means “around” menopause, and represents the 2-8 years before menopause, characterized by changes in bleeding patterns (menstrual cycles become more irregular) with cycles twice a month to skipped cycles.  This can lead to huge hormonal shifts leading to sleep issues, body composition and depression/anxiety among many other symptoms.

Premenopause – the time where a woman is experiencing regular menstrual cycles (about every 28 days) and not having any symptoms of perimenopause/menopause.

What is one of the first signs of perimenopause?

Because women during this time are still having ovarian function, i.e. having periods, there are vast fluctuations in hormonal levels leading to irregular cycles – this is the first sign of perimenopause.

Common symptoms occurring during perimenopause and menopause:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Loss of Libido
  • Brain Fog

In our next blog, we’ll review the pelvic anatomy and the menstrual cycle.  This will help us understand how and why perimenopause/menopause occurs!  Stay tuned!

Pelvic Anatomy 101 here we come!