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  • Writer's pictureAli Rislan

What is Menopause?

Updated: May 15, 2023

The 3 stages of menopause; an overview

Menopause | An infographic showing the estrogen levels based on woman's age.

Menopause is officially defined as the “ceasing of menstruation” – when a woman’s periods permanently stop. Referred to as “the change” it is commonly seen as the point at which a woman can no longer have children, and this is likely where the misconceptions begin.


Often misdefined as a single event, it is rather a gradual process that consists of 3 stages: Perimenopause, Menopause, and Postmenopause; each with a common set of symptoms. Keep reading to find out more about how menopause occurs and leave this common misconception behind.


Perimenopause

Perimenopause, meaning “around menopause”, is the time when your body is making the natural transition to menopause. Most commonly starting in your 40s it is essentially the process caused when your ovaries stop working, and can last for up to 10 years.


As hormone levels fluctuate erratically, periods become irregular, usually the first sign of Perimenopause. This is often accompanied by other symptoms which may come and go with the fluctuations in hormone levels.


You may experience:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats

  • Irritability and mood swings

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Vaginal dryness, though this is more common in the postmenopause

  • Other menopause-like symptoms


Menopause

Menopause is diagnosed after 12 consecutive months with no menstruation. Usually, this occurs between the ages of 45-55 but not all women will experience it the same, and for some, it may occur earlier or later.

The symptoms can be very similar to perimenopause, still caused by fluctuating hormone levels. As there is no longer a reserve of eggs in the ovaries and eggs are not released, the natural hormonal cycle is disrupted. This may come with worsening of perimenopausal symptoms, such as the hot flashes and vaginal dryness, or even a change in your symptoms.


Postmenopause

Meaning “after menopause”, postmenopause is the time after a woman has not experienced a period for over a year. Often postmenopausal women experience a significant easing of menopausal symptoms, but for some women symptoms continue for up to four or five years longer.


Some symptoms can be:

  • Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Vaginal laxity and dryness

  • Loss of volume in the intimate area

  • Osteoporosis and increased risk for cardiovascular disease

While symptoms may gradually improve, this is an important time to listen to be mindful of your health and well-being.


Menopause is the natural stopping of a woman’s menstrual cycle. More than just a single event, it is a gradual process unique from woman to woman. It’s vital to understand this 3-stage process to manage your symptoms and be mindful of others around you going through menopause, as each has its own symptoms and health implications. After reading this blog you should be aided with the knowledge to do exactly that, and to help others better understand this period in a woman’s life.


Looking for some personalised advice for your symptoms, or interested in treatment for them? Click the button below and fill out the form to be contacted by Dr Hala, our gynaecological expert with over 30 years of experience in the field.


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