What is menopause?
For most women, menopause is a natural process of aging. Menstrual periods gradually stop. The ability to become pregnant ends. Some women feel relief that their childbearing years are ending. But other women struggle with the physical and emotional changes that come with it.
For most women, menopause happens around age 50. But every woman’s body has its own timeline. Some women stop having periods in their mid-40s. Others keep having periods well into their 50s
Some women go through the process earlier because of cancer treatment or surgery to remove the ovaries.
What can you expect with menopause?
- It starts with perimenopause. This is the process of change that leads up to menopause. Perimenopause can start as early as your late 30s or as late as your early 50s. How long it lasts varies. But it usually lasts from 2 to 8 years
- During this time, your hormone levels will go up and down unevenly (fluctuate). This causes changes in your periods and other symptoms. In time, estrogen and progesterone levels drop enough that the menstrual cycle stops. Going a full year without having a period is usually considered menopause.
- Low estrogen levels after menopause speed bone loss. This increases your risk of osteoporosis. The risk of heart disease increases as well.
- It’s normal to have thinner, dryer, wrinkled skin after menopause. The vaginal and the lower urinary tract also thin and weaken. This can make it hard to have sex. It can also increase the risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections.