Many women assume this is a single stage but it is, in fact comprised of several stages which mark the transition from reproductive to non-reproductive status.
The last day of your final menstrual period is classed as the menopause. But the menopause is a gradual process in which you experience physical and psychological symptoms due to the hormonal changes taking place.
These hormonal changes reflect a fall in oestrogen levels due to a reduction in the number of eggs released by your ovaries.
They disrupt your menstrual cycle and cause a range of symptoms, e.g. hot flushes which we know as the menopause.
Note: the use of the word ‘symptom’ refers to a natural condition and not a medical disorder. You may prefer to think of these changes as signs rather than symptoms: but either way this is used in a positive manner.
The menopause is a natural part of the ageing process and a stage in a woman’s life which marks the end to her reproductive capabilities.
Menopause as a gradual process
The menopause can be considered as the following 3 stages:
- The perimenopause and premenopause stages are classed as the ‘menopause transition’ stages or the period of time leading up to the menopause.
- The menopause starts from the day of the final menstrual period and lasts for 12 months from that date.
- The postmenopause is the period of time following that.
What do we mean by the menopause?
It is used to describe the biological changes taking place over a period of several years until the date of the last menstrual period.
You are classed as having reached the menopause once 12 months have passed since the last day of your final menstrual period.
The stage after that is known as the postmenopause.
You may prefer to think of the menopause as a combination of all of these stages which occur over several years. Others may find it easier to break it down into several stages such as the ones discussed in this section of the guide.
You pass through these stages to reach the menopause. Once your periods have ended the menopause is said to have started which then moves into the postmenopause stage.
The postmenopausal stage can last up to 10 years.
How long does the menopause last for?
This process varies from one woman to the next. But on average it starts around the age of 45 and lasts until the early to mid-fifties.
Postmenopause can last for up to 10 years following the end of menstruation.
So, one can say that the menopause lasts from 10 to 20 years and is a gradual process of change.
The menopause can start in your mid forties, continue until your early fifties and finally cease when you are in your early sixties.
Emotional response to the menopause
Some women view the menopause almost with relief as it means an end to menstruation and birth control. This is particularly the case with women who have suffered painful periods or problems with their menstrual periods since puberty.
For them it is a blessing not to have to deal with the pain and inconvenience of menstruation.
But for others, it means that they are no longer fertile and so are unlikely to conceive.
Other women view this process with a sense of sadness as it means an end to their childbearing years and their youth. They see this as a transition into old age and the potential problems this may bring. The idea of growing old gracefully is not considered; instead they view the menopause as the start of becoming old, infirm and unattractive.
There is a stigma attached to the menopause which is not difficult to understand in the light of our youth-obsessed culture in the UK. Being young is prized above everything and it can be difficult to compete with this.
Many women who go through the menopause feel that they have to do everything they can to hold off the ageing process and try and recapture their youth.
Whilst this is understandable it is not a realistic state of affairs and can cause a great deal of frustration and ultimately, disappointment.
A preferred course of action is one which involves a healthy lifestyle, support and advice from others and a positive outlook. A good way of approaching this is to see the menopause as a time when you will gain wisdom and understanding as well as having new challenges to deal with.
Find out more in our how to survive the menopause section.
- Guide to Menopause
- What is the menopause?
- Female hormones and menopause
- Premature menopause
- Menopause signs
- Menopause symptoms
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Urinary changes
- Vaginal changes
- Weight gain
- Lack of interest in sex
- Aches and pains
- Skin changes
- Emotional changes
- Health risks of the menopause
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Menopause treatment
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Benefits of hormone replacement therapy
- Risks of hormone replacement therapy
- Alternatives to hormone replacement therapy
- Vaginal lubricants
- Menopause self help
- Nutritional supplements
- Complimentary therapies
- Botanical products
- How to survive the menopause
- Menopause myths
- Menopause FAQs