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Feature:
Menopause: A Woman's Change of Life

Understanding and Managing Menopause

Three smiling women

Menopause, or the "change of life," 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 may hardly be aware of a change at all.

What Is Menopause?

Menopause 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. 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 one 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, menopause, 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's 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's 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.

Read More "Menopause: A Woman's Change of Life" Articles

Understanding and Managing Menopause / Menopause: Every Experience is Different / Menopause Symptoms / Menopause Treatments / Staying Healthy After Menopause

Spring 2013 Issue: Volume 8 Number 1 Page 14