In your mid to late 40’s, certain clues may give you a hint that menopause is right around the corner. These clues can start a few years before your last period. This is called the perimenopause stage and it happens when the hormone levels in your ovaries begin to change. Your estrogen levels go down but not all at once. They become uneven and can be both high and low. Periods become irregular. You may have hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems and mood swings. If you are in this stage, you need to be careful as you can still become pregnant.
Menopause is the permanent ending of your period. The average age a woman enters natural menopause in the United States is 51, but it can occur at any time from age 40-58. Few women enter menopause in their 30s and very few in their late 60s. Women usually go into menopause around the same age their mothers and sisters went through this change. Smoking can make women go through menopause as much as 2 years earlier. Some women start menopause because they received certain medications or because they had surgery to remove their ovaries and/or uterus (hysterectomy).
Postmenopause is the time after menopause. Postmenopausal women make a very small amount of estrogen. Some women continue to have symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. After menopause, a woman’s risk of heart disease and weaker bones (“osteoporosis”) increases.