What is Menopause?

women experiencing hot flashes

The Many Flushed Faces of Menopause

Menopause is a normal part of aging. However, many women enter the menopausal transition without knowing what to expect. Dr. Mary Catherine DeRosa answers common questions about menopause.

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Menopause is the end of your periods. The loss of ovarian function is actually a gradual process and often takes many years. The transition from regular ovarian function to lack of ovarian function is called perimenopause—it is a time marked by changing and erratic levels of ovarian hormones. This is a natural part of the life cycle, but introduces new physical and emotional realities.

Most women experience perimenopause between the ages of 40 and 58. However, there is no set timeframe for a woman to enter this stage of life, and no set schedule to tell us how long the process will be or at what age she will experience her final period.

The first sign of perimenopause is menstrual cycle irregularity, but other symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, and anxiety and mood changes may also occur. Although a woman is considered to be postmenopausal when a year has passed since her final menses, symptoms may persist for several years after the final menstrual period.

Some women may go through menopause early as a result of a medical condition, surgery to remove the ovaries, or treatment for cancer. This induced menopause occurs more suddenly than natural menopause, and may cause more pronounced symptoms.

When you begin to notice symptoms, you may want to meet with your health care provider. The perimenopausal transition is a good time to look into healthy lifestyle changes that can help you maintain many active and productive years. If symptoms become a problem, or you have unanswered concerns, your provider can make a referral to our program.