How long does menopause last?
Just to be clear when MenoMe® talks about ‘the meno years’ we’re talking about perimenopause, menopause itself and post-menopause.
Need to know: menopause itself happens when you have your last period so you only know it’s occurred in hindsight.
Menopause is a subject that’s not as simple as it seems at first glance so here’s the low-down on all of the stages of the meno years and [an approximation] of how long they last.
Confusion alert: it’s not cut and dried.
In the introduction, we didn’t mention one stage of the meno years that sometimes gets mentioned in articles. Premenopause (meaning before). This begins with your first period as you enter your fertile years and finishes with the first incidence of changes in sex hormone levels. Generally these begin when progesterone drops around your mid-30s. However, premenopause shouldn’t impact you much in terms of ‘menopause’ and life will feel pretty normal. Of course, if you suffer from conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, PMMD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), PMS and fertility issues this may differ.60% – 80% of women experience hot flushes during perimenopause and post-menopause. Click To Tweet
Perimenopause (peri meaning near) refers to the years leading up to menopause, which can begin 8-10 years before menopause actually hits. While it often kicks in at around 40 in some cases, it may begin in your late-30s or not until your mid/late-40s.
Subsequently, many of the signs associated with menopause begin due to a significant change in estrogen and progesterone levels. But most of us don’t realise that progesterone (the calming hormone) drops significantly around 35 as mentioned above. And once you go into perimenopause estrogen fluctuates wildly. So at times you have low estrogen and at others you’re estrogen dominant.
Due to these hormonal fluctuations there are many signs that could start showing themselves during peri. For example, hot flushes, mood swings, dizziness, headaches, spotting/ heavy periods, brain fog, irritability, anxiety and depression can raise their heads.
Here are the 34 recognised signs:
There are also other lesser-known signs also such as UTIs tinnitus, vaginal yeast infections, water retention, acne, and clumsiness.
During perimenopause, a woman’s levels of primary sex hormones such as progesterone, estrogen and testosterone begin to go out of balance. Progesterone has already declined, estrogen levels swing up and down and testosterone begins to lower. When I was about 45 and some of these things were happening I put it down to my father dying, work stress or my relationship – whatever was going on at the time. Essentially though, my hormones were going way off-kilter and parts of my brain were fighting to keep them at normal levels.
While it’s a natural process it’s one we often don’t notice or blame on other things. This may sound familiar to you also.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
There’s certainly a lot of information flying about on how long perimenopause lasts and some of it’s conflicting. This is because there’s an average time (the usual for the masses) and then there are the women who are biochemical exceptions to the rule. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them and they’re not abnormal, it’s just the way their body rolls.
Generally, the average age of menopause is 51 and perimenopause usually begins three to four years before. Although for some women, it’s up to a decade before. The Australasian Menopause Society advises we use a guideline of 4-8 years.
Do you see how there’s no cut and dried answer?
What’s Happening During The Meno Years?
The ovaries begin to produce less and less estrogen and eventually stop releasing eggs. Accordingly, the closer a woman gets to this end-point the more likely she is to experience some of the signs above. Or – in some cases – for them to get stronger.
Look After Your Health
What many of us don’t realise is the meno years are also a time when certain health issues become more commonplace. Estrogen circulates its benefits right throughout our bodies and as it lessens it doesn’t just affect fertility. Equally important are changes in brain cognition, blood pressure and risks of high cholesterol, heart disease, blood sugar imbalance and osteoporosis or weakened bones. Furthermore, thyroid dysfunction and arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis can also occur at this time.
Menopause occurs when you haven’t had a period for 12 months so, as I mentioned in What Happens To Your Body During Menopause, you’ll only know you’ve experienced it when you look back. If you use an app to track your cycle this will be a big help in recognising when you’ve come to the end of menstruation.
What’s more, it’s important to note that if you’ve gone 12 months without a period and then start bleeding again you should see your doctor. This will rule out other things.
More confusion here! Post-menopause is defined the same as menopause – 12 months after the end of perimenopause or your last period – which you won’t know until afterwards. Argh! What differentiates it is you will be at this stage for the rest of your life.
Some women still experience some of the signs of menopause like hot flushes for years, or even the rest of their lives. Importantly, at this juncture a woman may experience an increase in many of the signs of reduced estrogen but, on average, she should have a decrease in symptoms.
Blood tests aren’t the most reliable test to decipher where you’re at. Even though hormone counts can be indicative at times the fluctuations can confuse things. The DUTCH test is the most effective tool we know of for testing hormone levels.
A Happy Ending
Once you’ve gone through menopause many women take joy in a sense of freedom and reinvent themselves. In addition, a lot of women report that they love the wisdom and confidence that comes with age. What’s more, they find the courage to speak out about the things they may have passed over to keep the peace beforehand. And they add that the strength and self-assurance they gain is something they wouldn’t swap for a tight butt or a few wrinkles!
The only thing nobody can tell you is how long the menopause years will last for you.
NB: Menopause may occur early for you if:
- You have a family history of early menopause
- You’ve had a hysterectomy
- You’ve been through treatment for cancer
- You are a smoker
- Some research suggests weight may play a role
If you’ve got any questions don’t get hesitate to flick me an email here.
Need some help?
Click the link to go to our store and buy our all-natural 40+ and 55+, it’s changing lives (mine included)!
Pregnant or menopausal? I know right? But the 40s can be a time of either possibility if you don’t practise birth control. As we’ve said in other stories such as 3 Signs That Point To You Being In Perimenopause and What Happens To Your Body During Menopause? menopause can creep up on us and be
Perimenopause. Perimenopause is a bit of a quandary for women. We’re woefully uneducated about the third part of our menstrual cycle – I’m referring to: Puberty Fertility Menopause Most women aren’t even aware that menopause only occurs when one year has passed since our last period, and that the lead-up to menopause is usually years