Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Conditions InDepth: Menopause

Menopause is the natural end to menstruation. The average age of menopause in the US is 52 years old. However, it can start around age 40 and as late as around age 60. If menopause occurs prior to age 40, it is thought to be abnormal and is called premature menopause.

Menopause is the result of the depletion of egg cells from the ovaries and the reduction of female hormones. Menopause is considered complete when you have been without a menstrual period for a full year. Rather than a single point in time, menopause is a process or transitional period when women move away from the phase of life where reproduction is possible.

Menopause is a normal part of life. It marks the end of a long, slow process that begins when ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and progesterone. These female hormones are both important for normal menstrual cycles and successful pregnancy. An oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) in women of reproductive age causes surgical menopause.

In addition to its role in reproduction, estrogen is an important hormone for maintaining bone health. It may also play important roles in heart health, skin elasticity, and brain function.

Stages of Menopause

Perimenopause:

  • May begin 2-8 years before the last menstrual period
  • Lasts about one year after the last menstrual period
  • Signs and symptoms may appear during this phase

Menopause:

  • Complete cessation of menstrual periods
  • You have had no menstrual periods for one year, undergo surgical menopause, or have a blood test confirmation of menopause
  • Childbearing is no longer naturally possible

Postmenopause:

  • Begins after your last menstrual period
  • You no longer menstruate
  • The risk of certain health problems increases. These health problems include heart disease and osteoporosis.
REFERENCES:

Menopause. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114698/Menopause. Updated March 15, 2018. Accessed April 17, 2018.

Menopause basics. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/index.html. Updated October 20, 2017. Accessed April 17, 2018.

The menopause years. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq047.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130416T1306377302. Updated May 2015. Accessed April 17, 2018.

Last reviewed April 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardMarcie L. Sidman, MD  Last Updated: 3/15/2015