Menopause is described as the time in a woman’s life when she hasn’t had a menstrual cycle for 12 months (via Mayo Clinic).
It is the result of hormonal changes that occur as ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone.
But menopause is not something that happens overnight — it is a transition that takes place over many years.
In fact, these changes can last anywhere from seven to 14 years (per the National Institute of Aging).
Since this hormonal change is gradual, most women experience a number of symptoms in the years leading up to their last period.
These years are referred to as perimenopause, and every woman experiences different symptoms, which makes this stage of life sometimes difficult to manage.
To make matters even more complicated, some women can experience menopause symptoms as early as 40 years old or well into their 50s, according to Mayo Clinic. That said, the average age for women in the United States is 51.
Symptoms can be physical and emotional
While menopause may be different for every woman, there are many typical symptoms (per the National Institute of Aging).
One of the most common is hot flashes, which can, once again, begin years before a woman’s last period and last as long as 14 years after their last period.
The Mayo Clinic reports that chills, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, among others, are also common indicators of menopause.
Keep in mind, as hormones fluctuate, menstrual cycles become irregular, and some women can go months without a period before having another one.
Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, fatigue, dry skin and eyes, weight gain, libido changes, and joint pain (via WebMD).
Hormonal changes also affect emotions. Therefore, many women experience depression and irritability from dealing with all of the changes that menopause brings.
Menopause is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that you need to suffer through it. If your symptoms are affecting your quality of life, the National Institute of Aging recommends speaking with your doctor about treatments that can help ease the transition.