The Menopause Years

Group of women in the menopause years

The Menopause Years

Just the facts, please!

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Menstrual cycles vary almost as much as women themselves, and the same is true for the end of menstruation when many women experience a change in their menstrual cycle. The amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries begins to fluctuate starting in a woman’s 30s or 40s. Cycles can become longer or shorter, with more or less bleeding.

On average, about 4 years before your final menstrual period, you may go through a phase that includes irregular cycles and significant hormonal fluctuations. This can result in hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and vaginal dryness that can make intercourse uncomfortable. After menopause, other less visible but equally important health changes may occur, including increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.

What’s in a name? The phases of menopause


The amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries starts to vary and menstrual cycles become irregular


Typically defined as a time in a woman’s life when she does not have a menstrual period for 12 months in a row


Any time after a woman goes through menopause

By the numbers


Estimated number of US women in 2011 who reached menopause daily

51 Years

Median age that women reach menopause (age ranges from 45 to 57 years)

Mid to late 40s

Average age when the menopause transition begins

4 Years

Approximate number of years that the menopausal transition takes 

40 percent

Portion of a woman’s life that may be spent in the postmenopausal phase 

2 years

Average number of years earlier that menopause occurs in smokers versus nonsmokers

Symptoms of menopause: 
It’s no laughing matter

You’ve likely heard the jokes about menopause, hot flashes, and mood swings. While some women do not have any symptoms of perimenopause or have only a few mild symptoms as they approach and later transition into and past menopause, others experience “the change” in many ways. Symptoms may include hot flashes, sleep problems, and dryness and/or discomfort in the vaginal area or urinary tract.


Longer life expectancy in the United States has made it possible for you to spend around 40% of your life in the postmenopausal phase. Since this phase lasts longer for many women, it is important that you be well-informed and ready to talk with your doctor about any discomfort or concerns you may have as you make the transition into and through menopause.  


Hot flashes: 
Is this global warming or me?

woman fanning herself

Hot flashes can happen anytime, anywhere: in a crowded elevator, at an important meeting, or while you’re relaxing at home. Even if you try to think of them as “power surges,” hot flashes can take the wind out of your sails.


Menopausal hot flashes, also known as “flushes,” usually occur as sudden sensations of warmth, and are most intense around the face, neck, and chest. Sometimes increased sweating and chills will follow. On average, a single hot flash lasts less than 5 minutes, but may persist for as long as 30 minutes. They can even wake you up at night.

While studies show that hot flashes usually begin 2 years before menopause and peak 1 year after periods end, they can take up to 10 years to disappear completely. In fact, 29% of 60-year-old women report that they still experience persistent hot flashes.* 


*Meta-analysis of 10 studies that included a total of 35,445 women. Vasomotor symptoms were reported in 6 of those studies. 

80 percent

Don’t sweat it: Ask for help!

80% of postmenopausal women develop moderate to severe hot flashes that may last for more than 10 years following their final menstrual period.


Among 255 women followed for 16 years.


Other symptoms of menopause: 
It’s no picnic

Some women going through menopause also experience vaginal symptoms, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, fluctuating moods, memory loss, fatigue, headache, joint pain, weight gain, and urinary incontinence. 


It’s important to remember that midlife can be a time filled with new responsibilities and challenges, such as providing care for aging parents or in-laws, or pushing your career forward. These stresses may also influence your health as you transition from perimenopause to postmenopause.

Menopause symptoms and you:
Nothing to tweet about 


So you’ve learned to cope, dress in layers, and ask ahead for extra ice in your water. But does that really help? 


Your doctor is the best person to help you manage uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. Treatment options are available. 

Learn More >>

Menopause symptoms

and you:

Nothing to tweet about 


So you’ve learned to cope, dress in layers, and ask ahead for extra ice in your water. But does that really help? 


Your doctor is the best person to help you manage uncomfortable symptoms
of menopause. Treatment options are available. 

Learn More >>
Woman coping with menopause

Menopause brings some health risks

It’s important to be aware of the other health risks associated with menopause. As women transition to menopause, their estrogen levels naturally decline. Estrogen, which is produced in a woman’s ovaries, is believed to support the strength of your bones. When levels of estrogen drop significantly in the natural process of menopause, that strength and protection may also decrease. 


What you don’t know can hurt you

The word osteoporosis literally means “porous bone.” Osteoporosis causes bones to become thin, weak, and brittle. This can increase the risk of fractures, which could lead to disability. 


The most rapid bone loss begins about 1 year before you have your last period and continues for about 3 years. 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 24.8% of women aged 65 years and older had osteoporosis in the lumbar portion of their spines or in the top part of the thigh bone called the femur neck.‡ 


This is the age-adjusted prevalence of osteoporosis at the femur neck or lumbar spine in women aged 65 and older in the United States during 2005-2010. 

spine and hip bone illustration
spine and hip bone illustration

Osteoporosis risk

One in 2 women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime; that’s greater than the incidence of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined. 

Discussion with doctor about menopause symptoms

Your doctor can help you learn about your personal risk factors and what you can do to minimize them.

Learn More >>