Here you will find menopause facts about the age you can expect the change of life to occur, why it occurs, the different stages and what to expect, how long it lasts, factual statistics, what lifestyle changes you can make and what treatments are available to you.
Stages of Menopause
Premenopause – these are the years after you have begun menstruation and before your periods stop. During these years you are fertile, able to have children and to lactate.
Premature – occurs before the age of 40.
Perimenopause – (medical term) is defined as the time in a woman’s life when physiological changes start to transpire and in turn they begin the transition. In preparation for this, the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are beginning to fluctuate, signalling the end of egg production. Once this cycle begins it cannot be stopped. This can be particularly stressful for women who have not yet had children as getting pregnant can be more difficult during this transitional time.
Hormones in a constant state of flux are what cause uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms in some women, such as night sweats, insomnia and fatigue. Most women notice some menstrual changes such as a shortening of cycle length (periods occurring closer together), skipped menstrual periods and occasional heavy periods up to a few years before menstruation ceases, commonly known as irregular periods.
How long this period of perimenopause will last is a difficult one to answer as everyone is different, however, as a general rule experts state that this period of time can be anywhere between 2-10 years (average of 4) before your final menstruation.
As you begin to notice changes it is a good idea to keep a journal of your signs and symptoms as this will help you to recognize important patterns and will make a discussion with your healthcare professional easier and more productive.
Although we don’t have a say in when it will occur, you can get ready for the change by adopting a healthy lifestyle with particular emphasis on diet and exercise. If you have been a little lax in this department in your menstrual cycle years now is the time to give your body some due care and attention.
A study published in 2012 by a Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecology in the Netherlands, reports that it is predicted by experts that a genetic test will be available in 5 years time (it is now April 2014) to predict the start of menopause. As well as being helpful to women and their health generally, it will be particularly helpful to women who want children.
Menopause is a physiological process in women that normally takes place after the age of 40, but more usually between 44-55 years. It is marked by the non appearance of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months for women over 50 and by the non appearance of a menstrual period for 24 consecutive months for women under 50 or when both of a woman’s ovaries are removed or permanently damaged. According to NHS statistics the average in the U.K. for a woman reaching this episode in her life is 51 years. Once you have reached your final period you are in the post menopause phase of your life.
Postmenopause is all the years beyond. Most symptoms improve independently within a 2-5 year timescale after your final period, however, some women report experiencing symptoms for up to 10 years. This is the time for you to treat yourself and learn to be you. Do what feels good for your body and soul and stay healthy by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Menopause Facts – Averages Of Available Statistics
8 out of 100 women cease menstruating before the age of 40
5 out of 100 women continue menstruating until almost 60
The average age of menopause is 51 years (NHS statistics)
Women who smoke tend to go through the change of life earlier than nonsmokers
Perimenopause and Contraception
Women are often tempted to abandon contraception during perimenopause (when their periods become irregular). Although fertility at this time of life is low, it is not impossible to become pregnant. An unplanned pregnancy at this stage of a woman’s life can be devastating not only for the woman but for close family members too and can present difficult choices.
Healthcare professionals recommend that women continue contraception until there is no further chance of ovulation and risk of pregnancy. You need to use an effective, safe and appropriate method of birth control until menopause is confirmed. As soon as your periods begin to be irregular in perimenopause, discuss your options with your healthcare professional.
Related Article: Birth Control Pills Effect on Menopause.
When to Stop Contraception
The general rules are to continue contraception for:
- One more year following the last spontaneous menstrual period if aged 50 years or over.
- Two more years following the last spontaneous menstrual period if aged under 50 years.
Is there a Blood Test Available to Check my Hormone Levels?
In the past, healthcare professionals would check your FSH levels via a blood test. However, the NICE menopause guideline states that there is limited or no value in measuring the follicular stimulating hormone level (FSH) over the age of 45 as it can fluctuate so much. Make sure that your healthcare professional is treating the symptoms you are presenting with as opposed to the results of a FSH blood test.
In November 2015, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) UK, issued the first guideline on diagnosis and managing menopause. You can find the guideline for professional and a simplified version for women patients here.
- Recognise that you need help
- Gather the information that you need
- Chart your menopausal symptoms
- Organise hormone tests
- Work out what works for you
- Listen to your body and maintain open dialogue with your family, friends and healthcare professionals
What can I do to help relieve my symptoms?
Simple Lifestyle Changes to help Relieve Symptoms
Moderate/avoid caffeine/alcohol consumption
Sleep 7-8 hours per night
Practice breathing exercises
Eat a well balanced diet
Intake of Vitamins B, C, D and E
What treatments are available?
- Diet and lifestyle changes with nutritional supplement support if needed.
- Natural Relief products.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy.
BMJ Group. “Menopause: What is it?” Patient Leaflet. 2007.
Menopause: the facts. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/Menopauseoverview.aspx
Perimenopause Overview. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-overview-facts
Contraception: You Need It Longer Than You May Think. Retrieved from http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/reminders-and-resources/contraception-you-need-it-longer-than-you-may-think