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What is the menopause transition?

Menopause is defined as the absence of menses for one year; however, hormone changes occur for years leading up to menopause. The actual time it takes to transition through menopause varies from woman to woman.

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Menopause transition, also sometimes called perimenopause, refers to the four to eight year period that your body transitions into menopause. During this time, you may notice some physical and emotional changes. The most common include:
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Stress incontinence
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Diminished concentration
Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

The transition to menopause, sometimes called perimenopause, is usually a gradual process. It involves the fluctuation of hormonal levels and some physical changes before the last menstrual cycle. It spans a period of one to six years or more. For most women, the menopause transition begins in their mid-forties and is completed in the early fifties.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

FROM THE EDITORS OF THE CLASSIC "BIBLE OF WOMEN'S HEALTH," A TRUSTWORTHY, UP-TO-DATE GUIDE TO HELP EVERY WOMAN NAVIGATE THE MENOPAUSE TRANSITION For decades, millions of women have relied on Our...
Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Menopausal transition is also known as perimenopause, when your body produces less estrogen, a sex hormone. The reduction in estrogen brings on perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, fatigue, worsening premenstrual syndrome, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, mood swings, breast tenderness, and difficulty sleeping.

At the end of menopausal transition, when you have not had a period for 12 months, you’ll be in menopause, and your body will produce very little estrogen.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
The menopause transition refers to the span between when estrogen begins to decline, up until menopause is complete. We also call that perimenopause. It takes four years on average for the levels of estrogen produced by the ovaries to get low enough for periods to stop completely, but the transition can last up to six years or even longer.

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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.