The 3 Stages of Menopause

There are 3 stages of menopause. (“Premenopause” is sometimes called a fourth stage, but this literally means “before menopause,” when your hormone levels are steady and periods are regular and normal).

  1. Perimenopause happens when your hormone levels start to fluctuate unevenly, sometimes rising AND falling. You may experience irregular periods and many of the symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, and mood swings. Although you may not feel anything like yourself, these are all normal signs of perimenopause! Perimenopause can last up to 10 years, but usually lasts 4-5 years before periods stop completely. While it is not common, during perimenopause you CAN still get pregnant, so birth control is recommended if that isn’t what you want!

  2. Menopause is the ending of your menstrual cycles (defined as beginning 1 year after your last period). The average age of menopause in North America is 51. You will usually reach menopause around the same age as your mother or sister. Symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, mood swings, anxiety, and depression might be very distressing or may not bother you at all – everyone’s experience will be different. Effective treatments are available, including lifestyle and diet changes and medication or hormone replacement.

  3. Postmenopause is the time following menopause (and continuing for the rest of your life). Your estrogen levels remain low and you can still have some menopause symptoms like vaginal dryness and hot flashes as a result. You are also at increased risk for health conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease that are linked to low estrogen levels, so it is important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to be at your best!

For some women, menopause can be a time of confusion and conflicted emotion, but it doesn’t have to be! With the right information at your fingertips, you can make this journey into the best years of your life.

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