Natural menopause typically occurs in the late 40s to early 50s. Menopause is the cessation of menses for 12 months. With this definition, a diagnosis is made retroactively once the last period, and a 12 month time period has passed. We refer to the transition period before menopause is diagnosed as perimenopause. This transition period can start several years before menopause and is about four years on average. During perimenopause, estrogen levels often fluctuate, periods become irregular, and fertility significantly decreases.
Early menopause, before the age of 40, is not normal and considered to be premature ovarian insufficiency. Causes of early menopause include surgical removal of the ovaries, genetic abnormalities, radiation, or chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer and certain autoimmune disorders. Sometimes, however, the cause is unknown.
Menopause and perimenopause can vary a lot from woman to woman. For some women, the last period comes and goes with no bothersome symptoms. For others, the process is much longer, and symptoms can include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, depression, vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, and cognitive changes. There are many options for treating these symptoms from your diet, exercise and lifestyle changes to hormone replacement therapy and other medications. Our clinicians are happy to meet with you and address any questions or concerns you may have about your experience through menopause.
Any bleeding after menopause has been diagnosed should be reported to your doctor. The cause may be benign, but bleeding during this time of life could be a sign of endometrial cancer.