What Is Menopause?
Menopause is a normal stage of a woman’s life in which she has not had a period for 12 months. The months or years leading up to menopause are called perimenopause (or premenopause). The years after menopause are called postmenopause.
Menopause, perimenopause and postmenopause are usually a natural part of a woman’s reproductive life. But there are some instances in which menopause can occur outside of the normal transition time:
- Damage to the ovaries, such as from chemotherapy
- Premature menopause
- Surgery to remove ovaries
Symptoms of menopause usually develop in women ages 45–55 years old. Menopause that occurs at age 40 or younger is considered premature menopause. The following symptoms signal a transition into menopause:
- Changes in libido — Vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse and urinary urgency may contribute to a change in libido during all stages of menopause.
- Changes in periods — Heavier or lighter flow than usual
- Emotional changes — Depression, moodiness, anxiety and stress are all common during perimenopause and menopause.
- Hot flashes/night sweats — Sudden flashes of warmth or breaking into a hot or cold sweat
- Irregular periods — Periods that occur more frequently than normal or longer spans in-between periods than usual
While medical treatments for peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause are not usually required, some relief for symptoms may include:
- Hormone therapy — Estrogen therapy is often prescribed to relieve menopausal hot flashes and prevent bone loss.
- Vaginal estrogen — Vaginal estrogen can help alleviate vaginal dryness, discomfort with intercourse and some urinary symptoms.
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