What Is Menopause?
Menopause refers to the transitional period of time in a woman's life when her ovaries start producing less of the steroid sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Natural menopause is a gradual process, beginning with perimenopause, or premenopause, that usually begins in a woman's 40s or even 30s. This stage can last as long as ten years, during which time the menstrual cycle continues, ultimately tapering off but typical menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings may begin. Menopause is diagnosed when a woman ceases to have a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, marking the end of her reproductive years. A woman of any age who has her ovaries surgically removed will undergo sudden menopause. Many other physical and psychological changes can occur throughout the stages of menopause and the postmenopausal period, including irregular heartbeat, headaches, sleep difficulties, irritability, depression, and anxiety, as well as cognitive symptoms like forgetfulness. For some women, menopause is also associated with the onset of problems such as vaginal dryness, painful sexual intercourse, urine leakage, and joint pain.