Menopause

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideWhat to Expect During Menopause as You Age

What to Expect During Menopause as You Age

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 and she can no longer become pregnant. 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.

At what age does a woman typically reach menopause?

The average age of menopause is 51 years old. But there is no way to predict when an individual woman will have menopause or begin having symptoms suggestive of menopause. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is also not related to the age of menopause onset. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, but menopause may occur as earlier as ages 30s or 40s, or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s. As a rough "rule of thumb," women tend to undergo menopause at an age similar to that of their mothers.

Perimenopause, often accompanied by irregularities in the menstrual cycle along with the typical symptoms of early menopause, can begin up to 10 years prior to the last menstrual period. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 9/25/2015
References
REFERENCES:

Clarkson, T. "The Role of Soy Isoflavones in Menopausal Health." Medscape. Oct 2010
<http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/745313>

Rossouw JE; Anderson GL; Prentice RL et al. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2002 Jul 17;288(3):321-33.

IMAGES:

1.MedicineNet

2.iStock

3.MedicineNet

4.Getty Images

5.Getty Images

6.iStock

7.iStock

8.iStock

9.iStock

10.iStock

11.iStock

12.iStock

13.iStock

14.iStock

15.MedicineNet

16.iStock

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Women's Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Menopause - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with approaching menopause?

    Post View 55 Comments
  • Menopause - Treatments

    What treatment has been effective for your menopause symptoms?

    Post View 13 Comments
  • Menopause - Experience

    Did you experience weight gain with menopause?

    Post View 10 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors