Menopause is your final menstrual period, which occurs when your ovaries have stopped producing the hormones that drive your menstrual cycle. It is diagnosed definitively when you have missed your period for 12 consecutive months. For most women, it is a natural process that occurs between the ages of 40 and 58, although some go into premature menopause or have induced menopause due to surgery or an injury to the ovaries.
Every woman experiences menopause differently. Some women may have very severe menopausal symptoms, while other women will barely have any complaints. However, there are some predictable menopausal symptoms that are commonly noticed by most women.
During your menopausal transition, you might start to notice some changes in your period. Lighter and/or less frequent periods are a normal change and an expected response to your decreasing hormone levels. (Heavier and/or more frequent periods need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider.)
Hot flashes are a very common—and unpleasant—symptom of menopause. Sometimes this may also be associated with anxiety or heart palpitations. A typical hot flash lasts anywhere from one to five minutes, and most women will have at least one per day.
Vaginal dryness in menopause is due to a lack of estrogen. This can lead to painful sex, an increase in vaginal infections, and chronic vaginal discomfort.
Sleep disturbances are common due to hot flashes, insomnia, stress, or depression. Emotional symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, and depression are also seen.
Weight gain is a frequent problem in menopause, and the loss of estrogen shifts fat distribution to the waistline.