How long does menopause last?


How long does menopause last is a bit a difficult question to answer because it really is different for every woman.

Menopause is a time of a woman’s life when the ovaries no longer produce eggs and the production of ovarian hormones begins to drop off. This causes many different symptoms that ultimately result in the cessation of periods. 

When a woman has had no periods for twelve consecutive months, it is said that menopause is over. 

There are actually three phases of menopause during a natural menopause. These include the following: 

• Perimenopause. This is also referred to as the menopause transition. This period of time usually starts 8-10 years before actual menopause and is a time when the ovaries are gradually producing less of the hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her 40s but can also begin when a woman is in her 30s. Perimenopause continues until the woman reaches menopause and no more eggs are made. There is an acceleration in the drop off of estrogen production in the last 1 to 2 years before menopause starts. Women begin to have menopausal symptoms during the menopausal state. There are still periods, although they may be irregular, and pregnancy can still happen during this stage. 

• Menopause. This is the time period when the woman has no menstrual periods. By definition, menopause lasts for 12 months, during which time a woman has no periods. Menopause ends when the woman has had no periods for 12 months in a row. Menopausal symptoms can occur during this time as well.  

• Post-menopause. This is the time period after menopause. Most of the menopausal symptoms begin to disappear during this time. Because there is very little estrogen produced, women who are postmenopausal will experience an increase in the risk of various diseases that they were protected from when estrogen was present. This includes conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis, both of which are less prevalent in women prior to menopause but increase in incidence after menopause. Fortunately, there are treatments available, including estrogen replacement therapy that can turn around the risk of these diseases.  

How long does perimenopause last? 

Perimenopause lasts for an average of 4 years but it can be longer or shorter, depending on the woman. Some women will have up to 10 years of perimenopause, while other women will have just a few months of perimenopause. This period ends when the woman has had no periods for twelve consecutive months, which is considered the menopausal period of time.  

What is the Definition of Premature Menopause?

The average age of menopause is 51 years of age although it can occur as early as age 40 or as late as age 59. Premature menopause is defined as going through menopause prior to the age of 40. Premature menopause can also occur if a woman has had her ovaries removed early in life or has undergone chemotherapy, which irretrievably damages the ovaries. Anytime menopause occurs before the age of 45, it is considered to be “early menopause.”  

How will you know when you are past menopause?

When an entire year goes by and the woman has not had any periods, she is considered to be past menopause. There is a blood test that can tell if a person has gone through menopause, called the FSH level or follicle stimulating hormone level. 

This level can be misleading because the FSH level can fluctuate during perimenopause so the test may be inaccurate. FSH is the hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain in response to low estrogen levels.  

Can pregnancy happen in the postmenopausal years?

Fortunately, you can no longer get pregnant once you have had no periods for 12 consecutive months. You can still get pregnant, however, during the perimenopausal years. If you don’t desire a pregnancy during this period of time, you need to use some kind of birth control until you have no periods for an entire year. 

Barrier methods of birth control, such as the condom or diaphragm are good methods of birth control during the perimenopausal state.

What are the Symptoms of Menopause?

If you got them, I won’t need to tell you because you know without a doubt. 

There are many symptoms of menopause that usually begin in the perimenopausal state. 

Some symptoms you might expect include the following:

• Night sweats

• Hot flashes

• Vaginal dryness

•  Pain in intercourse

• Insomnia

• Mood swings

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Urinary urge incontinence

• Breast tenderness

•  Worsened PMS symptoms

• Dry skin or eyes

• Dry mouth

• Irregular periods or the skipping of menstrual periods

• Periods that are too heavy or too light 

• Headaches

• Hair loss

• Weight gain

• Problems in concentration and memory

• Decreased sex drive

• Muscle and joint pains

• Headaches

• Rapid heart beat

Not every woman will get all of these symptoms and some women will get no symptoms at all. One of my friends just transitioned without any symptoms at all and I have a friend that has been in menopause for 10 years! There is a lot you can do and menopause can really be a time to celebrate. Many of these symptoms are the direct result of decreasing estrogen levels by the ovaries. They usually pass when menopause is over with. I help women go through menopause naturally and get all the pieces of the menopausal puzzle sorted  we look at hormones, diet, lifestyle, movement, empty nest, life purpose, relationships and connections.

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