Menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman's menstrual periods. A woman has officially gone through menopause when it has been one year since her last period.

In the months to years before menopause—a time called perimenopause—the production of hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle changes.

In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51. But there is a wide range: some women have their last period in their 40s, others in their late 50s.

Anything that damages the ovaries or stops estrogen production can cause menopause to occur earlier. These include:

  • smoking
  • chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • surgery to remove the ovaries

Symptoms of menopause

Each woman’s experience of perimenopause and menopause is unique. Common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:

  • irregular periods
  • hot flashes and night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • disturbed sleep
  • urinary incontinence

Women are also more likely to develop depression for the first time or have it recur. Some women report trouble with memory and the ability to concentrate.

Easing menopause symptoms

There are effective ways to deal with some of the symptoms of menopause.

Irregular periods. Low-dose birth control pills are an option for nonsmokers. Use of progesterone-like hormones also can help control heavy, irregular bleeding.

Vaginal dryness. Over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers can relieve dryness.

Hot flashes. Many women can manage hot flashes with self-help approaches like beginning deep-breathing exercises at the beginning of a hot flash, wearing loose, comfortable clothing and dressing in layers, keeping the work place and home —especially the bedroom — cool.

Taking estrogen or other hormones can be safe and effective for short-term relief of symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats—provided it’s prescribed with a woman’s individual health in mind. Hormone therapy is also effective for preventing osteoporosis in women at high risk for breaking bones.

Menopause Articles

Menopause and mental health

Changes in female hormone levels can bring about mood changes or mild mood disorders during perimenopause and the transition into menopause. However, this is also a time when life circumstances or physical changes can play a role in mood shifts. Women should be aware that this may occur and be certain to bring bothersome mood changes to the attention of their doctors. More »

Could your breast implants be making you sick?

Many women are reporting symptoms they believe are associated with their breast implants. Sometimes called breast implant illness, this combination of vague symptoms—such as hair loss, fatigue, anxiety, and depression—is also associated with a number of other conditions, including menopause, thyroid problems, and autoimmune conditions. Researchers are now working with patient advocacy groups to better understand the problem. Experts recommend that women understand the potential risks and benefits of breast implants before having the surgical procedure. (Locked) More »

The growing problem of drug-resistant UTIs

A growing number of urinary tract infections are now resistant to common antibiotics. This makes them harder to treat and raises the potential that women will develop complications, such as kidney or blood infections. Women can help protect themselves from UTIs by following good hygiene practices and staying well hydrated. (Locked) More »

What’s causing bladder pain or burning?

Bladder pain and burning with urination affect more women than men. The symptoms can be caused by many conditions, such as upper or lower urinary tract infections, genitourinary syndrome of menopause, vaginitis, sexually transmitted infections, and interstitial cystitis (bladder pain syndrome). When symptoms occur, one should see a primary care doctor or gynecologist, and possibly a urologist or urogynecologist. Depending on the condition, treatment can include the use of antibiotics, vaginal estrogen cream, or bladder training. (Locked) More »

Hormones and breast cancer: What you should know

Hormone therapy is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. A new study shows that risk is higher with both estrogen-only hormone therapy and progesterone-estrogen combination therapy. In addition, women who take hormones for a longer time have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. If a woman opts to take hormone therapy, it should be for as short a period as possible to manage symptoms. (Locked) More »

Hot flashes and heart health

Results of a recent study suggest a link between frequent and persistent hot flashes and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, even among women who had more hot flashes, the overall odds of having a heart-related event was still low. Since most women experience hot flashes around the time of menopause, more research is needed to better define the frequency and severity of hot flashes that would warrant extra attention to cardiovascular risk. (Locked) More »

Winning the weight battle after menopause

Changes in hormone levels just before and during menopause may cause women to gain weight and to store more weight around their middle, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle changes can help, but they may not always be enough to make a difference. Some women may need to seek out assistance from a weight-loss professional. (Locked) More »

Don't ignore vaginal dryness and pain

Vaginal dryness, irritation, and pain during intercourse affect 50% of women after menopause and are caused by declining estrogen levels in the body. A study showed that vaginal estrogen and moisturizers are equally effective in reducing symptoms in some women. But existing treatments often fall short of providing full relief. (Locked) More »