What is the menopause?

All women experience the menopause sooner or later; your menstrual cycle changes, menstruation decreases and ultimately stops. This usually occurs somewhere between your 45th and 56th year. The transition to menopause is called perimenopause.

Menopause is a natural process and marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not menstruated (had her period) for one year. Menopause is also marked by a decrease in hormone production by the ovaries. If you are still menstruating, even if it is irregular, you can't know for sure whether your current menstrual period will be your last one. Menopause is something you can only determine after the fact.

Why do women experience the menopause?

You enter the menopause when your store of egg cells starts to deplete. This causes your ovaries to produce less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. This decrease occurs in stages, so your hormone levels will fluctuate.

Your menstrual cycle changes

Your menstruation is the first indication that your hormonal balance is changing. Your cycle may become more intense and shorter or less intense and longer. The time between your periods can also vary and you ultimately stop menstruating completely. For some women, menstruation stops suddenly and completely.

The menopause in three phases

The total transitional process can last from between 3 and 10 years, with an average of 4 years, and can be subdivided into three phases:

  • Perimenopause
    The period before your last menstruation. During this period, your ovaries gradually stop producing hormones, causing considerable hormonal changes in your body. Quantities of estrogen, in particular, will vary. Many women experience the familiar symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.
  • Menopause
    Menopause begins after your very last menstruation and when you haven't had your period for at least 12 months.
  • Post-menopause
    This is the period immediately following menopause, in which your body must regain its balance. Long-term symptoms such as osteoporosis, joint pain, degradation of cartilage and thinning hair,often occur in this phase.

Expert advice for menopausal symptoms: you don't have to suffer.