What is menopause?
Menopause is the time in your life when you stop having periods because of hormonal changes. This usually happens in your late 40s or early 50s, but may happen earlier.
What happens during menopause?
Born with a uterus and ovaries? Menopause is a natural and normal process that happens to you as you get older. Menopause usually happens between ages 45 and 55, with 51 being the most common age.
Menopause starts when your ovaries stop making estrogen, and slow down making other reproductive hormones, like progesterone. Without these hormones, you stop getting your period and stop being able to get pregnant.
If you’re between 45-55 and you haven’t had your period in a year, you aren’t pregnant, and you don’t have a serious illness, you may be going through menopause.
Not everyone goes through menopause because of aging. Sometimes other health issues kickstart menopause. If your ovaries are removed through surgery, you may experience sudden symptoms of menopause instead of the gradual change that usually happens. Medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can also make menopause happen early or suddenly.
Your doctor or nurse can help you figure out if you’re going through menopause. They can also help you manage menopause symptoms.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause means the time leading up to menopause where you may have symptoms. This stage can last anywhere from a few months to up to 10 years, and is a process that may start, stop, and start up again.
Perimenopause usually begins in your 40s, but it can start earlier, too. People who smoke usually start perimenopause 2 years earlier than nonsmokers.
The amount of estrogen made by your ovaries starts to change in your 30s and 40s — it can go up and down. You may notice this is happening because your periods begin to change. Changes to periods during perimenopause is common and totally normal.
Some changes you might notice include:
The time between one period and another changing (either longer or shorter)
Totally skipping a period
Bleeding patterns changing during your period (heavier or lighter)
Bleeding between periods
Changes in menstrual bleeding are pretty normal during perimenopause, but it’s still a good idea to talk with your doctor or nurse about them.
You can still get pregnant during perimenopause. If you don’t want to get pregnant, continue using your birth control method for at least a year after you have your last period. Your doctor or nurse can talk with you about stopping your birth control method and answer any other questions you have about perimenopause.