How Long Does Menopause Last?
The average woman starts menopause at the age of 51 when they have not had a period for 12 months or more. This is a completely natural part of aging, marking the end of your child-bearing years.
However, menopause is also a very confusing and sometimes frustrating time. Many women experience various symptoms due to hormonal fluctuations, such as hot flashes and difficulty sleeping. So, let’s dive a little deeper into this topic. What should you expect? How long does menopause last?
What is Menopause?
As aforementioned, menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstruation stops. Menopause has officially happened when you have not experienced a period within the last 12 months.
Menopause takes place through three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Perimenopause is usually the time when a woman begins experiencing various symptoms related to menopause, which we will discuss in more detail below. First, let’s take a closer look at the common symptoms associated with menopause.
The Common Symptoms of Menopause
As a normal biological process, menopause takes place over many years. Usually, symptoms that mark the beginning of perimenopause include:
- Irregular periods.
- Hot flashes.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Night sweats.
- Mood fluctuations.
- Weight gain.
- Slowed metabolic function.
- Thinning hair.
- Dry skin.
- Sleep difficulties.
- Brain fog.
You may experience all of the above or only a few of the above. The most common symptom is irregular periods, which take place before your periods stop happening altogether. Sometimes, you will skip a month here or there, then have no period for a few months before it returns, and then it will halt entirely.
The Stages of Menopause
So, what are the different stages of menopause exactly? How long does each stage last?
This is the time when a woman’s cycle becomes irregular due to decreased estrogen production via the ovaries This usually happens in a woman’s late 40s. However, it may begin earlier, such as before 40 years of age, which is referred to as premature menopause.
You may also begin to notice other symptoms, such as hot flashes or trouble sleeping. At the same time, during this stage, you can get pregnant, which is something you may want to keep in mind.
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This officially happens when you experience your last menstrual cycle, and this is confirmed after 12 months of no period. You may have other symptoms, such as night sweats, vaginal dryness, and more. These are happening due to hormonal changes within the body.
Post-menopause begins a year after your last period. If you have any vaginal bleeding after this time, ensure you visit and consult with your doctor since this is not normal.
Coping Techniques for Menopause Symptoms
Generally, it lasts an average of four years. Yet, for some, it can extend longer or be shorter. Either way, many years of these symptoms are a long time. It can feel disruptive to your daily life and even decrease your quality of life. So, what can you do to cope? Below, we have outlined a few coping techniques when it comes to getting through menopause.
1. Estring® (Estradiol) Vaginal Ring
The Estring® is a type of vaginal ring that contains the hormone estradiol, which is a form of estrogen. It is used to treat symptoms of menopause that are related to vaginal atrophy, such as vaginal dryness, itching and painful intercourse.
The Estring® is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and left in place for 90 days before it needs to be replaced. The ring slowly releases a low dose of estradiol directly into the vaginal tissue, which helps to restore the natural balance of hormones in the body.
2. Use Lubrication
Vaginal dryness is a common problem amongst menopausal women. This can not only lead to various discomforts but can also make intercourse particularly difficult. However, through the use of water-based lubricants or moisturizers prescribed by your doctor, this major symptom is treatable.
3. Consider Adjusting Your Lifestyle
Your lifestyle might not need a full overhaul. However, it is important to pay attention to areas where you can actively be making improvements. Doing so can reduce symptoms and help you cope.
Hot flashes are another common complaint. The best thing you can do here is to recognize your triggers and limit or avoid them. For instance, many women find alcohol often leads to hot flashes. By limiting your intake, you can help lower the chances of this symptom from happening.
Additionally, you may want to consider:
- Quitting smoking.
- Avoiding napping during the day so that you get better sleep at night.
- Regular exercise.
- Assessing your sleep hygiene.
- Reducing stress through relaxation techniques.
- Make sure you are eating a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients as part of a balanced diet.
4. Discuss HRT Options With Your Doctor
If you have severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This can help reduce mood swings, slow bone loss, reduce hot flashes, improve sleep problems, help with vaginal dryness, and more. Yet, there are side effects that may happen when taking HRT and a prescription is required, which is why you will need to discuss this with your family doctor.
Menopause can be a tough time. But it does not have to be. Knowledge is power, and when you know how to address your menopausal symptoms, you can continue to live your life without symptoms interfering or getting in your way.