Menopause
(Perimenopause)

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Menopause facts

  • Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months. It is the time in a woman's life when the function of the ovaries ceases.
  • The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather is a gradual process. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a different experience for each woman.
  • The average age of menopause onset is 51 years old, but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s There is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause.
  • The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is not related to the age of menopause onset.
  • Symptoms of menopause can include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, vaginal and urinary symptoms, and mood changes.
  • Complications that women may develop after menopause include osteoporosis and heart disease.
  • Treatments for menopause are customized for each woman.
  • Treatments are directed toward alleviating uncomfortable or distressing symptoms.

What is menopause?

Menopause is defined as the state of an absence of menstrual periods for 12 months. The menopausal transition starts with varying menstrual cycle length and ends with the final menstrual period. Perimenopause is a term sometimes used and means "the time around menopause." It is often used to refer to the menopausal transitional period. It is not officially a medical term, but is sometimes used to explain certain aspects of the menopause transition in lay terms. "postmenopausal" is a term used to as an adjective to refer to the time after menopause has occurred. For example, doctors may speak of a condition that occurs in "postmenopausal women." This refers to women who have already reached menopause.

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the function of the ovaries ceases. The ovary (female gonad), is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and female hormones such as estrogen. During each monthly menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one ovary. The egg travels from the ovary through a Fallopian tube to the uterus.

The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. The hormones also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Estrogens also protect the bone. Therefore, a woman can develop osteoporosis (thinning of bone) later in life when her ovaries do not produce adequate estrogen.

Perimenopause is different for each woman. Scientists are still trying to identify all the factors that initiate and influence this transition period.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/5/2013

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Menopause - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you experience with approaching menopause?
Menopause - Treatments Question: What treatment has been effective for your menopause symptoms?
Menopause - Experience Question: Did you experience weight gain with menopause?

Menopause Symptoms

Ten Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Menopause

Note: We recommend you print this page to use as a reference for your consultation with your doctor.

  1. Could my symptoms be due to a condition other than menopause? (Be ready with a diary of symptoms - the character, frequency, duration, intensity, triggers, etc.)

  2. What are the medications that I might consider to control my menopause symptoms? Are there lifestyle or other modifications I can make to help alleviate the symptoms?

  3. If I choose to use hormone therapy, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the various routes of administration (pill, patch, cream, vaginal, etc.)?

  4. What are the side effects of hormone therapy, and how does my individual health/family history affect my decision to take hormone therapy? What are the risks?


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