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What is menopause?

Do you have a uterus and ovaries? Menopause is when you permanently stop having menstrual cycles (periods). Menopause usually happens in your late 40s or early 50s, but may happen earlier.  

What causes menopause?

Menopause is a natural and normal process that happens to you as you get older. The most common age for periods to stop is 51. But it can be sooner or later.

You can also go into menopause if your ovaries are removed or if you have certain cancer treatments.

What happens during menopause?

Menopause from Aging

Menopause happens in the stage of life when your reproductive hormone levels go down. Your ovaries get smaller and gradually stop making estrogen, as well as slow down making progesterone. Without these hormones, you stop getting your period and stop being able to get pregnant. 

If you’re between the ages of 45 to 55 and you haven’t had your period in a year, you aren’t pregnant, and you don’t have a serious illness, menopause has probably happened.

Other Causes of Menopause

Not everyone goes through menopause because of aging. Sometimes health issues kickstart menopause. If your ovaries are removed through surgery, you may experience sudden symptoms of menopause instead of the gradual change that happens with age (AKA induced menopause). Medical treatments like certain chemotherapy drugs can also make menopause happen early or suddenly.

Your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can help you figure out if you’re going through menopause. They can also help you manage menopause symptoms.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause when your periods may change and you may have other symptoms. This stage can last anywhere from a few months to up to 8 years. It’s 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.

What happens during perimenopause?

The amount of estrogen your ovaries make 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. This 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. 

What’s postmenopause? 

Postmenopause is the time in your life after you go through menopause. 

To review: Menopause is when a person permanently stops having menstrual cycles. Periods stop when your hormones are too low to create them.

Once you haven’t had your period for over a year, that means menopause has happened and you’re officially postmenopausal. 

What are symptoms and treatments for perimenopause and menopause?

Some people don’t have symptoms of perimenopause or menopause. Other people have one or more of these symptoms

If your symptoms don’t bother you, you don’t need treatment. But if you have disruptive symptoms, the treatment that works best is menopausal hormone therapy (MHT).


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