The Three Stages of Menopause

May 7th 2016

Since every woman is different, talk to a doctor to learn what steps to take to reduce your symptoms during menopause. Women should also discuss options for reducing the risks of osteoporosis and heart disease after menopause ceases.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause typically happens four years before actual menopause as the ovaries gradually make less and less estrogen. This process generally begins in a woman's 40s, but it can occur as soon as the 30s. Perimenopause may start eight to 10 years ahead of menopause. During the last one to two years of perimenopause, the estrogen drop quickens and becomes more noticeable.

Women still have regular periods during this stage and can still get pregnant. Estrogen levels may spike during this time, and the rise in hormones may create premenstrual syndrome symptoms. A woman may experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and diminished concentration.

Menopause

Menopause marks the stage in a woman's life when the ovaries no longer produce egg cells and menstruation ceases. Menopause becomes an official diagnosis when a women goes 12 months without a period. The menopausal stage begins with a woman's last official period. A woman may still have hot flashes, dryness, mood swings and other symptoms of perimenopause.

Postmenopause

Biologically, postmenopause happens after a year of menopause. A woman can no longer become pregnant with eggs from her own ovaries because her body has stopped producing them. Menopausal symptoms ease during this time, but a woman may become vulnerable to long-term health effects of decreased estrogen levels at this point.

Doctors measure a substance called follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, to determine if a woman has reached postmenopause. FSH is made in the pituitary gland in the brain, and this substance can drastically change levels during a woman's transition to menopause.

A postmenopausal woman should have regular checkups for osteoporosis and heart disease. Medications, hormone therapy and healthy lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of these two conditions. Osteoporosis may lead to brittle bones because estrogen plays a role in preserving bone mass. Women lose an average of 25 percent of bone mass from menopause up to age 60.

Premature Menopause

Menopause generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Some women may experience menopause early. This could happen due to a hysterectomy that removes the ovaries or chemotherapy that may damage the organs. Menopause before the age of 45 is called early menopause, and menopause before 40 is premature menopause.

Conclusion

Menopause occurs in three distinct yet gradual stages in a woman's life. The natural process happens independent of any medical procedure or surgical treatment. The three stages of menopause usually occur after age 40, but the exact age differs from woman to woman.

Sources

WedMD.com "Menopause basics" http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-basics
ClevelandClinic.org "Menopause" http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic-what-is-perimenopause-menopause-postmenopause
Rochester.edu "Stages of menopause" https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/ob-gyn/gynecology/menopause/stages.aspx

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