“Menopause should have been a subject in school!”
We know about menopause, but it still flusters us when it comes. I myself wasn’t prepared for it.
I remember asking two questions. When does menopause start, and how long does menopause last?
Finding answers to my questions made me realize that they were tough to answer. But one fact is for sure – menopause messes up more than just our periods! 😀
Join me in this article, and let’s find the answers to the questions: when does menopause start, and how long does menopause last!
What is Menopause?
Before we get into the question of how long does menopause last, it’s good to know what menopause is.
In the medical world, menopause happens when a woman no longer has periods for 12 months. Menopause is a natural change for many of us, but others experience it differently.
Surgical menopause happens to women who went through specific operations. For example, oophorectomy or the removal of the ovaries. Another one is hysterectomy or the removal of the uterus.
In contrast to what many of us think, menopause isn’t an overnight change. We go through three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
During each stage, your hormones may go up and down, causing many symptoms. Some women have mild discomforts, and a lucky few have no symptoms at all.
When Does Menopause Start and How Long Does Menopause Last?
“Menopause” is a word that describes our entire transition. It’s acceptable to use the word, but what’s more important is to know what goes on during this time.
I see menopause like going on a long road trip, you need to have a map and an itinerary to know where you’re heading. And that’s what we’re going to do here, familiarize menopause’s map!
- The first stage of menopause that begins 8 to 10 years before the menopausal stage. For some women, perimenopause happens in their 30s or 40s.
- Your hormones become unpredictable during perimenopause and they may go up and down. Estrogen dominance (ED) is also common in perimenopause. ED happens when estrogen decreases but not as much as progesterone.
- ED causes many symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances. Night sweats and weight gain also happens. But the two classic signs of perimenopause are irregular periods and hot flashes.
- While our periods are irregular at this stage, we are still able to ovulate. For this reason, the chance of getting pregnant is still possible.
- Menopause starts right after your last period. It’s the full 12 months that you no longer have menstruation. The average age a woman reaches this stage is at 51.
- Your ovaries produce lesser hormones during menopause. But your body will help you by activating the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce DHEA. This hormone can convert itself to estrogen and progesterone.
- Vaginal dryness, low libido, dry skin, nails and eyes and heart palpitations are symptoms common in the menopause stage.
- The last stage of menopause which happens after the 12 months without your periods. Postmenopause last for the rest of your life.
- Your ovaries produce scant amounts of hormones in postmenopause. To make up for this loss, your body activates more hormone-producing organs. Besides your adrenals, your body also knocks on your gut and liver for hormone supply. But this will come in small amounts.
- Many women say they feel way better in postmenopause. Symptoms become milder as your body copes with the change.
Going back to the question of how long does menopause last, if you ask me, I’d say it doesn’t have a time frame. Menopause is a lifelong journey. You go through it for the rest of your life. Dr. Louise Newson explains it better in her video. She says we remain postmenopausal for the remaining years of our lives (0:52):
6 Factors That May Affect the Length of Menopause
There are many factors influencing when and how we experience menopause.
According to studies, Hispanics, Westerners and African-Americans experience earlier onset of perimenopause compared to Asians like Japanese and Chinese women. Most Caucasian women fall in between.
Experts say that if our mothers and grandmothers experienced shorter or longer menopausal transitions, there’s a 50% chance that we may experience it the same way too.
If you had menstruation at 12 years old or below, you might experience perimenopause early. The same goes for women who did not experience childbirth.
Surgeries like removal of the ovaries and uterus may cause menopause. During surgery, your glands or the vessels supplying blood to your glands get cut off. As a result, you’ll experience menopause symptoms immediately after surgery.
Consuming processed foods messes up hormone balance. It also suppresses your body’s natural ability to produce hormones.
Besides a poor diet, lack of exercise can lower hormone production. When you don’t move enough, your glands become dormant. They lose their ability to produce hormones over time.
Stress is also another reason your hormones decrease at rapid rates. It affects entire body systems and can ruin hormone balance on its own. Chronic stress overworks organs and as a result, causes exhaustion. Exhaustion may contribute to early menopause.
Smoking has anti-estrogenic properties. Experts say that women who smoke experience menopause two years earlier.
Toxins like xenoestrogens or synthetic hormones can mess up hormone balance big time. They may influence the intensity and severity of our menopause symptoms later on. Excessive exposure to plastics and contaminants increases our toxins in the body. Toxins block hormone production and causes premature menopause.
Every woman has a different menopause story to tell. Knowing what’s going on in your body will make menopause easier. Make yourself a priority, and everything will fall into place.
BUT DON`T LEAVE JUST YET!
Getting the facts will take out the guessing. Check THIS out!
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Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.