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Understanding the phases of menopause and changes that go along with them

Menopause is the milestone a woman achieves when her ovaries no longer release eggs and she stops menstruating. Menopause can occur naturally with age, or as a result of surgical removal of the ovaries.

Menopausal symptoms may arise around age 45 and last for several years. This period of transition is referred to as perimenopause. During this time, women may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

· Mild warm flashes or hot flashes with profuse sweating

· Poor sleep quality

· Anxiety, mood swings, depression

· Brain fogginess

· Weight gain or fat redistribution to the abdominal area

· Vaginal dryness and pain with sex

Emily Blosser, MD
Emily Blosser, MD

The average age of menopause – defined as the absence of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months – is 51 years. However, women may start the transition earlier, between ages 40 and 45, or experience “premature menopause” before age 40.

One of the most common and disruptive symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. This happens when changes in hormone levels cause a feeling of intense warmth that can appear suddenly or slowly. Hot flashes can be as mild as feeling flushed or severe enough to cause sweating that wakes you from a sound sleep, also known as “night sweats.” Most hot flashes last 30 seconds to five minutes.