Skip to content

Menopause Health Center

Font Size

Menopause and Perimenopause - Topic Overview

What is menopause? What is perimenopause?

Menopause is the point in a woman's life when she has not had her period for 1 year. It marks the end of the childbearing years. It's sometimes called "the change of life."

For most women, menopause happens around age 50. But every woman's body has its own time line. Some women stop having periods in their mid-40s. Others continue well into their 50s.

Recommended Related to Menopause

Understanding Menopause -- Symptoms

Not all women experience symptoms prior to or following menopause, which is defined as the time when a woman has naturally ceased having menstrual periods for one year. If menopausal symptoms occur, they may include hot flashes, night sweats, pain during intercourse due to vaginal dryness, and increased anxiety or irritability.

Read the Understanding Menopause -- Symptoms article > >

Perimenopause is the process of change that leads up to menopause. It can start as early as your late 30s or as late as your early 50s. How long perimenopause lasts varies, but it usually lasts from 2 to 8 years. You may have irregular periods or other symptoms during this time.

Menopause is a natural part of growing older. You don't need treatment for it unless your symptoms bother you. But it's a good idea to learn all you can about menopause. Knowing what to expect can help you stay as healthy as possible during this new phase of your life.

What causes menopause?

Normal changes in your reproductive and hormone systems cause menopause. As your egg supply ages, your body begins to ovulate less often. During this time, your hormone levels go up and down unevenly (fluctuate), causing changes in your periods and other symptoms. In time, estrogen and progesterone levels drop enough that the menstrual cycle stops.

Some medical treatments can cause your periods to stop before age 40. Having your ovaries removed, having radiation therapy, or having chemotherapy can trigger early menopause.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include:

Some women have only a few mild symptoms. Others have severe symptoms that disrupt their sleep and daily lives.

Symptoms tend to last or get worse the first year or more after menopause. Over time, hormones even out at low levels, and many symptoms improve or go away.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    woman walking outdoors
    How to handle headaches, night sweats, and more.
    mature woman holding fan in face
    Symptoms and treatments.
    woman hiding face behind hands
    11 ways to keep skin bright and healthy.
    Is it menopause or something else?
    senior couple
    mature woman shopping for produce
    Alcohol Disrupting Your Sleep
    mature couple on boat
    mature woman tugging on her loose skin
    senior woman wearing green hat
    estrogen gene

    WebMD Special Sections