is it perimenopause or menopause? and what are the signs?
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Did you know that menopause is defined as a natural, one-day event in a woman’s life?
It is marked by the permanent end of your menstrual cycle at which time you are no longer able to become pregnant. Menopause is confirmed if you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period with no other obvious causes, like radiation, chemotherapy or surgery (oophorectomy).
The average age for reaching menopause is 51.
Natural menopause happens gradually over the course of 2 to 11 years. Historically, this was a time in a woman’s life that was given many different names and was viewed as a disorder or hormone deficiency state. Many strange and even dangerous therapies were used to “treat” menopause, such as locking women up in asylums and removing their ovaries.
Advancements in science in the last two decades have allowed the medical community to recognize menopause as a stage of life, like that of adolescence. It is now seen as a natural transition occurring in 3 stages (perimenopause, menopause - a one-day event, and postmenopause).
Perimenopause (meaning “around” menopause), also known as the “menopausal transition,” commonly starts in your early 40s as your body’s production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone start decreasing.
Unlike in your reproductive years when your estrogen levels rise and fall fairly predictably, estrogen levels at this stage go up and down erratically. As a result, your regular menstrual cycle can become more unpredictable and almost all women experience changes in their bleeding patterns. You may also begin to experience some level of physical and emotional discomfort. Hot flashes and night sweats, a common complaint among women in midlife, may begin at this stage and continue for years.
Not every woman experiences perimenopause the same way.
Some women reach menopause with no complaints at all while others may suffer well past menopause into their postmenopause years. In particular, women who had an oophorectomy, a surgery to remove one or both ovaries, often have severe issues like hot flashes that are extremely disruptive to their daily life.
To have the healthiest and most comfortable menopause experience, it’s important to take extra care of yourself. The good news is that there are approaches and simple steps you can take to help you reduce your bothersome menopause complaints. There’s no need to suffer in silence.
The North American Menopause Society. http://www.menopause.org.
What is Menopause? National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause
The History of Menopause https://www.balancehormoneoklahoma.com/blog/the-history-of-menopause
Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, April 14). Perimenopause: Rocky road to menopause. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Perimenopause. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/perimenopause
Cleveland Clinic. (2019, October 22). Premature and Early Menopause. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21138-premature-and-early-menopause