The term "menopause" is defined as the time of a woman's final menstrual period. If a woman has not had her period for 12 months, she is considered as having had gone through menopause. After 12 months, any bleeding she would have is considered abnormal. Some experts refer to the entire year after the final period during which there is no bleeding as menopause, so according to this definition, menopause only lasts one year. This usually occurs in women in their 50's, although it can occur as early as the 40's or as late as the 60's in age.
Perimenopause and Menopausal Symptoms
The period around menopause, between the time she begins to have irregularities in her menses and having symptoms related to diminishing production of estrogen and progesterone from her ovaries, and the 12 months after which she has her final period, is called perimenopause. This perimenopausal period is what most people think of as menopause. She may have hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause as many as two to five or eight years before her menstrual periods finally stop. For some women this period of time can be ten years or longer. During perimenopause and menopause itself is when a woman suffers from hot flashes, decreased sexual drive and painful intercourse, vaginal dryness, and changes in weight, sleep, and urinary frequency, as well as irritability, mood swings, and crying spells.
Other Reasons the Menses Stops
The perimenopausal woman begins to have irregularity in her menstrual cycles, as well as skipped periods. However, she should be tested if it is possible that she may be pregnant. This is the usual reason periods stop, especially if she is relatively young to be going through menopause. There are also other reasons that might cause a skipped period as well as pregnancy. A change in diet or a rapid change in weight could affect the menstrual cycle. A change in exercise habits can also cause cessation in menstruation, especially endurance training or endurance sports. Some diseases or treatments for diseases can also cause the menses to stop, so this should be checked also.
Factors That Can Cause Perimenopause to Begin Earlier
There are several reasons why perimenopause can begin earlier. Three of these are smoking, heredity, and childlessness. Women who smoke are more likely to go into menopause sooner. Women also tend to go into menopause around the same age as their mothers or sisters. If a woman has never delivered a child, she will go into menopause sooner than women who have gone through childbearing. Also, if a woman had radiation or chemotherapy for cancer as a child, this could cause menopause to start earlier. Perimenopause can also start earlier in women who have had a hysterectomy, even if the ovaries are still intact.
Nothing to be Afraid Of
Menopause is a normal part of a woman's life. It has been called a reverse adolescence because the hormonal changes in the woman's body wreaks havoc on her life just as they did when she was going through puberty. The good news is that menopause ends. If she can survive the few years of perimenopause until after the year of menopause is over, the woman becomes postmenopausal, and the symptoms of menopause have either subsided or adjustment has been made to the changes brought about by menopause. The easiest adjustment to make, of course, is - No more periods, ever!