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flowers arranged to look like a uterus and ovaries

Menopause is a natural event marking the end of the reproductive phase in a woman’s life, signaled by the end of menstruation. It becomes official after a full 12 months have passed without a menstrual period.

This normal part of female aging usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55; the average age is 51. Menopause before 45 is considered “early menopause,” according to the Cleveland Clinic; before age 40 is “premature menopause.”

Menopause is a natural event marking the end of the reproductive phase in a woman’s life, signaled by the end of menstruation.

Early menopause may be induced surgically, by removal of the ovaries, or chemically, with medications, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or those used to hold hormone-receptive breast cancer at bay. (Periods that stop before age 40 without medical intervention are sometimes called “primary ovarian insufficiency”; if your periods stop this early, check with your healthcare provider to rule out other complicating health factors.)

Once someone passes the one-year mark without a period, they are technically postmenopausal — though some health experts think that term is misleading. “I’m a fan of using the word ‘menopause’ to encompass the whole continuum or experience, from the menopause transition onward,” explains obstetrician and gynecologist Jen Gunter, MD, author of The Menopause Manifesto, since health symp­toms associated with menopause “don’t magically start or stop with the final period.”

And while these hormonal shifts can present themselves in some unsettling ways — hot flashes, moodiness, sleeplessness, forgetfulness, and a hide-and-seek libido — this is all par for the course. “Menopause is not a disease,” notes Gunter. “It is an evolutionary adaptation that is a part of the survival of the species.”

This was excerpted from “What You Should Know About Menopause” which was published in the October 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Mo
Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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