You’re not alone in finding menopause and the terms associated with it confusing. After all, when it comes to talking about the stages of menopause, the main term we are used to is “the change”! To save you time and energy, read our essential guide to menopause stages that explains premenopause, perimenopause and postmenopause, so you can figure out where you stand.
I want to scream into my pillow. Is that normal?”
It’s about time that menopause and even perimenopause are slowly becoming part of mainstream conversation and getting some attention! The ridiculously long absence of talking about menopause stages openly means it can be difficult for women to get help.
Stella is working to change this by providing better information, support and relief to women to manage their menopause better. We believe you deserve to be heard and diagnosed properly.
Do you know the menopause stages?
It’s likely your friends would be unable to explain the terms premenopause, perimenopause or postmenopause accurately and it’s completely understandable why. It simply hasn’t been part of any sex education curriculum.
I know very little about menopause – who knew it even came in stages?”
We are all unique and each woman’s menopause experience is different. It can help to understand the stages of menopause, what to expect, possible menopausal symptoms and how to describe them to your doctor.
Paying attention to your body during perimenopause and beyond is important, as your menopause experience can depend on lifestyle, genetics and medical history.
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I’ve found that menopause symptoms can be so subtle that at first, you don’t quite realise what’s going on”
What are the stages of menopause?
The word menopause doesn’t describe a woman’s entire journey through the stages of menopause and this is why it is more useful to break down, both in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Menopause doesn’t describe a woman’s entire journey and this is why it is more useful, both in terms of diagnosis and treatment, to break down the different stages of menopause.
A woman is premenopausal before menopause. This is when you are without menopausal symptoms and have periods, even if your cycle is irregular.
Perimenopause is the time leading up to the menopause milestone. This is when menopausal symptoms appear for many women, such as increased anxiety, unexplained mood swings, low libido, erratic periods, restless sleep, weight gain, bladder problems and the dreaded hot flushes, pain, plus many more. This phase tends to occur between the ages of 45 and 55.
Find out more in our symptoms library.
The word menopause doesn’t describe a woman’s entire journey through the stages of menopause and this is why it is more useful to break down, both in terms of diagnosis and treatment.
Menopause is the moment in time when a woman with ovaries hasn’t had a period for a year and isn’t using hormonal contraception. In these cases, the problem is that you won’t know you’re in menopause until your periods have stopped completely!
You may have had your ovaries removed or be on medication that has stopped your ovaries from working, which is known as surgical or medically induced menopause. It doesn’t make menopause any easier when you know it is happening.
Postmenopause begins when you have not had a period for a year. Symptoms experienced through perimenopause can carry on into this phase.
Women can and do suffer from menopausal symptoms during premenopause and postmenopause and not just when they reach menopause.
Learn from other women’s experiences:
- Brain fog by Lisa
- Heavy period pain by Amanda
- Hot flushes at work by Jeneva
- Intimacy by JP
- Itchy skin by Rowena
- Low mood by Ida
- Mirena coil by Alice
- Panic attacks and early menopause by Erin
- Rage by Emily
- Vulvodynia by Cathy
Why does menopause happen?
Menopause is a natural consequence of your ovaries aging and producing fewer hormones. Ovaries are a major source of oestrogen and they produce less as they age in the run-up to menopause, leading to menopausal symptoms.
Menopause can also happen when a woman’s ovaries are removed or damaged. Women can also experience early or ‘induced’ menopause if this happens.
How long does menopause last?
The time between perimenopause and menopause tends to last for an average of 10 years but it differs from woman to woman. Menopausal symptoms can last well into postmenopause.
Menopause could be an incredible journey of self-discovery”
What are the signs of early stages of menopause?
There are over 30 menopausal symptoms that can appear throughout perimenopause and postmenopause. The early stages of menopause can look very different in different people. You may get lucky and experience just a few (to the envy of your friends!), or you may have to manage many symptoms. The intensity and duration vary greatly from woman to woman, which is why you may feel different from others going through menopause.
It can be difficult to work out what are the signs of early stages of menopause and what might be a separate health problem when you have multiple symptoms. Common menopausal symptom areas include:
- Vasomotor symptoms: hot flushes and night sweats
- Musculoskeletal symptoms: joint and muscle pain, osteoporosis and reduced muscle mass
- Mood symptoms: depression, anxiety and low mood
- Urogenital symptoms: vaginal dryness and recurrent urine infections
- Sexual issues: low libido, painful sex and difficulty in achieving orgasm
- Memory and concentration: brain fog, forgetting words
Find out which symptoms may mean you need to see your doctor.
What causes early menopause?
For some, menopause can come early.
A surgical menopause is when both ovaries are removed during an operation as a result of medical reasons, such as an ovarian cyst, endometriosis, ovarian torsion, ectopic pregnancy and ovarian cancer. This type of surgery will trigger the postmenopause phase in women who haven’t reached menopause. Read our guide on how to deal with induced menopause or surgical menopause.
Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI)
Menopausal symptoms sometimes arrive far earlier than anticipated between puberty and 40 years of age. The most common cause of this is premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), which occurs if your ovaries stop producing enough hormones for ovulation. The causes for this can be a result of genetics, autoimmune diseases, surgery and cancer treatment. It doesn’t always result in complete menopause.
Part of the investigation into POI may include checking your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, as rising FSH levels can ‘trick’ the body into earlier menopause.
Read more about menopause on our blog.