Menopause refers to the phase of a woman’s life after which periods have stopped. It usually starts in the U.S. at about 51 years of age. It should be a very enjoyable and productive time in a woman’s life. Since the average life expectancy for women is approximately 80 years, the majority of women will spend one third of their lives in menopause.

Symptoms of menopause

Most women start to wonder if they are in menopause even before their periods stop. After age 45 many women start to have some transitional symptoms which are usually related to their periods, either getting irregular, heavier, or lighter, and they may skip periods. They may also start to experience other symptoms of menopause on a lesser scale. Eventually periods stop and when a woman has had twelve months with no periods they are officially said to be “post menopausal”.

Even though some women go through menopause without symptoms, the majority of women do have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Hot flashes–feel like a heat wave that usually starts in the face and chest and moves throughout the body. Hot flashes typically start happening before periods stop.
  • Night sweats–when hot flashes happen during sleep, sometimes they are followed by perspiration. This can make it difficult to sleep well.

Other symptoms are sleep problems, difficulty remembering things and concentrating, vaginal dryness, depression and reduced interest in sex.

Menopause is very important for many other health reasons. Increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and blood clots are associated with menopause so talk to your health provider about how to stay healthy at this important time in your life.