Stages of Menopause

Stages of menopause and the experience transitioning through menopause vary from woman to woman. 

Onset of Menopause

The median age for the onset of menopause is 47.5 years. For most women, this transition period lasts approximately four years. Only about 10 percent of women cease menstruating abruptly, experiencing no menstrual irregularity. 

There are a few key factors that influence when menopause actually takes place. First, smokers have been found to start experiencing menopause 1 and half to two years earlier than non-smokers. It is believed that smoking causes a decrease in the level of estrogens secreted by the ovaries. Also influencing the onset of menopause was how long a woman smoked and how many cigarettes she smokes during that period. 

Genetics are also a factor in determining when menopause will begin. The age your mother went through menopause is a good indication of the age you'll experience menopause too. 

Factors influencing earlier than average onset of menopause... 

  • having medically treated depression

  • not having children

  • having had epilepsy, especially for women who've had frequent seizures

  • having undergone pelvic radiation to treat childhood cancer

  • suffering from poor nutrition

Factors influencing later than average onset of menopause... 

  • fibroids

  • more than one pregnancy

  • premenstrual syndrome

  • higher body-mass-index levels

  • higher cognitive scores in childhood
Stages of Menopause

Menstrual cycle changes leading to menopause

Often the first indications a woman is entering into perimenopause are changes in the menstrual cycle. Fluctuating hormone levels can start when a woman is as young as 35 or 40 years old. This can be particularly disturbing for women with a history of hormone imbalances because of such problems as PMS, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis. 

What is perimenopause? 
Peri menopause is the transition period from up to six years prior to natural menopause to one year after. During this time, women start experiencing the often annoyingmenopause symptoms

Some of these symptoms include... 

  • mood swings

  • irritability

  • sleep disruptions

  • depression

  • vaginal dryness

  • memory problems

  • general aches and pains

Reproductive Aging Timeline and Stages of Menopause

For a long time, doctors talked vaguely about the stages of menopause. Then, in 2001, the Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop (STRAW) developed a reproductive-aging timeline that explains the stages a woman's reproductive system goes through. 

STRAW came about because of the need for a more formal description of female progression from puberty all the way to postmenopause. 

These seven stages can help women understand how to deal with menopause. STRAW should be seen as a general roadmap to reproductive aging. For instance, many healthy women won't follow the pattern exactly, while some fluctuate between levels and others skip a stage entirely. 

The STRAW model appears to imply a predictable transition from the reproductive years through perimenopause to postmenopause, but remember, women's real life experiences actually vary tremendously. So if your progression through menopause doesn't look exactly like the STRAW model, you're not alone. 

› Stages of Menopause

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