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Monday, December 9, 2013
If you are a woman in her mid forties or early fifties, you may feel like your body is changing, but you may not know what is happening. Maybe your periods are not the same. You do not sleep as well as you always have. Or your waist is getting thicker.
You may not be paying much attention to these changes until one day, if you are like many women, it happens—a hot flash! One minute you feel perfectly comfortable, and the next you are sweating and flushed—for no apparent reason. You may be surprised. You may feel too young.
You ask yourself - "Could this be the start of my transition through menopause?"
Menopause, or the "change of life," is a normal part of life, just like puberty. It is the time of your last period, but symptoms can begin several years earlier. Some symptoms of menopause can last for months or years after.
Menopause is different for each woman. For example, hot flashes and sleep problems may trouble your sister. Meanwhile, you are enjoying a new sense of freedom and energy. And your best friend might hardly be aware of a change at all.
Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are two female hormones made in your ovaries, might lead to these symptoms.
This time of change is known as the menopausal transition, but it is also called perimenopause by many women and their doctors. It can begin several years before your last menstrual period. Perimenopause lasts for 1 year after your last period. After a full year without a period, you can say you have been "through menopause." Postmenopause follows menopause and lasts the rest of your life.
The average age of a woman having her last period is 51. But, some women have their last period in their forties, and some have it later in their fifties.
Smoking can lead to early menopause. So can some types of operations. For example, surgery to remove your uterus (called a hysterectomy) will make your periods stop, and that is menopause. But you might not have menopause symptoms like hot flashes right then because if your ovaries are untouched, they still make hormones. In time, when your ovaries start to make less estrogen, menopause symptoms could start.
But, sometimes both ovaries are removed (called an oophorectomy), usually along with your uterus. That is menopause too. In this case, menopause symptoms can start right away, no matter what age you are, because your body has lost its main supply of estrogen.
For additional information about menopause:
What About My Heart and Bones?
How Can I Stay Healthy After Menopause?
What About Those Lost Hormones?
Do Phytoestrogens Help?
How Do I Decide What to Do?
Many research studies are underway to help us learn about menopause. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:
Last Reviewed: Apr 23, 2013