Menopause is diagnosed if a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period.
Menopause usually lasts about 7 years but can be much longer in some cases.
The average age for onset of menopause is 51 although many women continue to have menstrual periods into their late 50s.
The time leading up to menopause is known as perimenopause and means that hormone production from the ovaries is beginning to decline and women may experience many symptoms as a result of the decreased and fluctuating hormonal production.
The most common symptoms of menopause are:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal atrophy and dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Slowed metabolism leading to weight gain
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Mood swings
- Loss of libido
- Loss of breast fullness
- Heart palpitations
Other symptoms of menopause are:
- Breast tenderness
- Joint pain
- Digestive problems
- Itchy and dry skin
Symptoms are different from woman to woman.
Menopause can increase the risk of other conditions like osteoporosis as well as heart conditions.
During perimenopause and up to one year after the last period there is still a slight chance of becoming pregnant.
The time after menopause is called postmenopause and symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness may continue due to the ongoing decrease in estrogen.