What is menopause and how long does it last?
Menopause is something that every woman has to go through at some point, and it’s also something many women dread. But it’s an inevitable part of aging, and you should be prepared for it.
According to Mayo Clinic, the average age of women entering menopause in the United States is 51. Natural menopause (i.e. not caused by a surgical procedure or other treatments) has three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause is the stage leading up to the complete cessation of menstruation. During this stage, a woman’s body starts to produce less estrogen. Perimenopause can begin up to 10 years before menopause. Many women report having menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes, years before they stop menstruating.
Once a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months, she is considered to have entered menopause. The stage after menopause is known as postmenopause.
The duration and severity of symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Some women describe their symptoms as unbearable, and some have only mild symptoms that don’t last long. According to HealthLine, perimenopausal symptoms last for 4 years on average.
However, some women may have to deal with symptoms for up to 12 years, a study found. The study also found that a woman’s ethnicity may play a role in the duration of symptoms; Japanese and Chinese women had the shortest average duration of symptoms, while African-American women had the longest.
When you should see a doctor about menopause and the symptoms it causes
See your doctor if you have any menopause-related symptoms that bother you. If you’re just nearing menopause, you can share your concerns with your doctor during your annual check-up.
It’s also around that time that certain screenings, including mammograms, are recommended, so it’s a good idea to discuss any recommended screening tests with your doctor regardless of how well you feel.
If you have vaginal bleedings after menopause, you should see your doctor as soon as you can.
What to expect after menopause
Unfortunately, the end of menstruation doesn’t mean the end of symptoms associated with menopause. Actually, menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness) tend to get worse after a woman ceases menstruating completely. This surge in symptoms is caused by a drop in estrogen levels.
The standard treatment for menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy, but the symptoms tend to come right back once a woman is off HRT. A good way to manage symptoms is maintaining good overall health with exercise, good eating habits, and good sleep, according to Kevin Audlin, MD., a gynecologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. He explained to Everyday Health:
Women who do these things are less likely to be bothered by hot flashes, and they get less of them.
Since women no longer enjoy the protective effect of estrogen on their health after they hit menopause, there are certain numbers they should be keeping an eye on. These include blood pressure and blood cholesterol (if these numbers are high, you’re at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease) and calcium and vitamin D intake (if your calcium and vitamin D intake is insufficient, you may be at a higher risk of osteoporosis).
If you have any concerns about menopause and its effect on your overall health, be sure to bring them up with your doctor.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.