Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated in 12 consecutive months and can no longer become pregnant naturally. It usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but can develop before or after this range. Menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes and weight gain.

When does Menopause begin and how long does it last?
Most women first begin developing menopause symptoms about four years before their last period. Symptoms often continue until about four years after a woman’s last period. There are many factors that help determine when a woman will begin menopause, including genetics and ovary health. Perimenopause occurs before menopause. Perimenopause is a time when hormones begin to change in preparation for menopause. It can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Many women begin perimenopause after their mid 40s. Other women skip perimenopause and enter menopause suddenly.

Perimenopause Vs. Menopause Vs. Post menopause
During perimenopause, menstrual periods become irregular. Periods may occur late or may complete vanish for about two months. Menstrual flow may also become heavier or lighter. Menopause is defined as a lack of menstruation for one whole year.
Post menopause refers to the years after menopause has occurred.

What are the symptoms of menopause?
Every woman’s menopause experience is unique. Symptoms are usually more severe when menopause occurs suddenly or over a shorter period of time.
Conditions that impact the health of the ovary, like cancer, or certain lifestyle choices, like smoking, tend to increase the severity and duration of symptoms.

Aside from menstruation changes, the symptoms of perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause are generally the same. The most common early signs of perimenopause are:
• less frequent menstruation
• heavier or lighter periods than normally experienced
• vasomotor symptoms, including hot flashes , night sweats, and flushing

Why does menopause occur?
Menopause is a natural process that occurs as the ovaries age and produce less reproductive hormones. The body begins to undergo several changes in response to lower levels of :
• Estrogen
• Progesterone
One of the most notable changes is the loss of active ovarian follicles. Ovarian follicles are the structures that produce and release eggs from the ovary wall, allowing menstruation and fertility. Most women first notice the frequency of their period becoming less consistent, as the flow becomes heavier and longer. This usually occurs at some point in the mid-to-late 40s.

Some women undergo treatment if symptoms of menopause are severe or affecting the quality of life. Hormone therapy may be an effective treatment in women under the age of 60, or within 10 years of menopause onset, for the reduction or management of:
• hot flashes
• night sweats
• flushing
• vaginal atrophy
• osteoporosis
Other medications may be used to treat more specific menopause symptoms, like hair loss and vaginal dryness.

Author: Shrabani Chakraborty

A Story Teller