What is menopause?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

In menopause, a woman’s menstrual periods stop and estrogen levels drop sharply. You are in menopause when you have not had a period for one full year. Menopause is a normal part of aging, but can also occur after chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the pelvic area for cancer and surgery to remove the ovaries.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Essentially, menopause signals the end of the hormonal symphony that produces ovulation: Your ovaries run out of viable eggs, interrupting your cycle of hormones and monthly periods. It may take a while for your body to settle into a new hormone equilibrium; in the interim, you may suffer menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, insomnia, loss of libido, reduced lubrication, itchy skin, dry hair and nails, achy joints, mood swings, memory lapses, even heart palpitations and an increased risk of seizures.

In spite of all these symptoms of menopause, estrogen decline is not totally a bad thing. You don't want to be in reproductive mode for your entire life, because you're meant to serve other purposes as you grow older. But that doesn't mean you have to suffer the side effects that occur during the process.

You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

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You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

International bestselling authors of YOU: The Owner's Manual and YOU: On a Diet give you all the tools and know-how to stay young and defy the ageing process. Drawing lively parallels between your...
Mrs. Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her periods (menstruation) eventually stop and the body goes through changes that no longer allow for pregnant. It is a natural event that normally occurs in women age 45 to 55. And for some women can be incredibly upsetting and emotionally traumatic. Not to mention the sometimes extreme side effects of menopause that can last years.

During menopause, a woman's ovaries stop making eggs and they produce less estrogen and progesterone. Changes in these hormones cause menopause symptoms. Periods occur less often and eventually stop. Sometimes it happens suddenly. Most of the time, periods slowly stop over time and symptoms will go on for years. Menopause is considered complete when you have not had a period for one year. This is called postmenopause. Women who are postmenopausal can no longer get pregnant.

Menopause is a natural part of the female reproductive cycle when monthly menstrual periods end permanently, signifying the end of childbearing years. Menopause is said to have occurred when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months. Until that time, a woman in her late 40s or 50s may still be able to get pregnant, despite irregular periods.

Menopause is a perfectly normal event that marks the end of fertility and childbearing years. Technically, menopause results when the ovaries no longer release eggs and decrease production of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and, to a lesser extent, androgen.

Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

Menopause is defined as the end of menstruation. However, because periods can be sporadic as a woman approaches menopause, she is said to have reached menopause only after she has not had a menstrual period for twelve months. At menopause, women no longer ovulate and their ovaries produce significantly less estrogen. Menopause either occurs naturally, or can be induced by surgical removal of the ovaries or other medical treatments. Often people use the term menopause to refer to the entire menopause transition.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause


Menopause is the phase of a woman's life when she no longer experiences menstruation. Menopause is usually confirmed once a woman has gone one year without having a period.

Menopause is preceded by perimenopause, which is caused by changes in hormonal cycling—and usually begins two to eight years prior to menopause. During this stage, hormonal fluctuations lead to menstrual irregularities—and some women also experience symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, increased urinary tract problems, loss of libido, weight gain and skin dryness.

This means the menstrual periods have stopped. Doctors will define it as 12 months from the last menstrual period.

Dr. Elissa M. Gretz-Friedman, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

The average age for menopause is 51.5 years. A woman is officially menopausal when she has not had a period for 1 year. A woman is born with all the oocytes (eggs) in her ovaries that she is going to have and throughout her reproductive life the number of oocytes decreases. When there are no more oocytes in the ovary, menopause occurs.

Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Menopause is the permanent end of your menstrual cycle. Technically it is the one-year mark after your last period. After that point you are said to be postmenopausal. Of course, this is a rather arbitrary cutoff point and you may continue to experience many of the symptoms you had during perimenopause. Plus, since your estrogen and progesterone have probably fallen to very low levels, you can no longer benefit from their protective qualities.

You're now more vulnerable to conditions such as heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease, and your bones may also be thinning. You may struggle with cognitive effects as well. Because menopause often comes with lower overall brain activity, it can be associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain and problems with concentration and memory.

If you're going through menopause today, you realize that menopause is not the end of anything vital to who you really are. If anything, it's an opportunity for new freedom in the many decades of life ahead. But with the physical changes in menopause, there are still some challenges to be faced. Your understanding of what's going on can help you make these the best years of your life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.