What is menopause?

During menopause, your body undergoes many changes.

Preparing for these changes and symptoms you can experience may be easier if you understand the process your body is going through.

Natural menopause occurs when:

  • Your ovaries naturally stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone
  • You go 12 consecutive months without having a period
  • No other biological or physiological cause can explain the missed periods

Surgical menopause begins immediately after surgery to remove both ovaries. (This may be part of a total hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy.)

After surgical removal of your ovaries, you no longer have menstrual periods, and your body no longer produces estrogen.

The sudden estrogen loss may quickly lead to many of the same menopausal symptoms that women face in natural menopause, like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal symptoms. For some women, those symptoms can be more severe than those experienced through natural menopause.

When does menopause begin?

Menopause begins at different times for different women, but most can expect it between the ages of 45 and 55. Whether you have reached menopause naturally or it has occurred due to surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries (called a hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy), this loss of estrogen can result in a variety of physical symptoms.

Common menopausal symptoms that may vary in intensity include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal symptoms.

A transition in 3 stages.

During this time of your life, your body usually moves through three gradual stages, unless your menopause is a result of surgery to remove your ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy), which ends the cycle immediately.

Perimenopause: Perimenopause is the time when estrogen production from your ovaries starts to decline and symptoms such as erratic periods, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness may begin. Most women reach this stage of the process in their late 40s.

Menopause: Menopause is identified by the passing of your final menstrual period. Of course, you will not be able to pinpoint your final period until you've been completely free from menstruation for some time. Once you've gone a full 12 months without having your period, count back to the time of your last period and that date is the date of your menopause. While the time of menopause is different from woman to woman, most begin between the ages of 45 and 55.

Postmenopause: Postmenopause is the stage of life after your final menstrual period. Sometimes the terms menopause and postmenopause are used interchangeably.

It's important to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about the effects these changes may have on your body and your health.