Stages of Menopause and How It Affects Women

By on October 1, 2015

For many women, the mere thought of menopause can trigger a flurry of emotions ranging from simple anxiety to absolute dread. However, menopause isn’t exactly a clear-cut affair for a lot of individuals. According to the National Institute on Aging, the average age of a woman entering menopause—the stage that marks the end of her fertility and of her menstrual cycles—is 51. Notwithstanding this average age, there are also women who have their last period earlier in their forties, while others have it later in their fifties.

The fact of the matter is that there is simply no clear starting point for menopause because when it will happen is largely dependent on what is dictated by a person’s genes. This uncertainty, coupled with the anticipation of the many physiological and emotional changes that go along with it, is what makes many women anxious about its onset.

All you need to know about menopause and why it occurs

The most common reason for the onset of menopause is the natural waning of the body’s ability to produce hormones. Estrogen and progesterone, for instance, are two very important reproductive hormones that regulate menstruation and fertility.

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Women who enter the menopausal stage can experience irregular menstrual cycles that can last several years. Eventually, menstruation will stop completely, but the hormonal imbalance that occurs in the body will continue to manifest in the form of symptoms that can tremendously affect a woman’s quality of life. These symptoms can include weight gain, depression, decreased sex drive, vaginal atrophy, hot flashes, poor memory, weaker bones, incontinence, and heart problems. To deal with the situation, a woman may choose to undergo bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, a specialized field of medicine that uses bioidentical hormones to help manage the symptoms of hormonal imbalance.

Aside from the natural decline in the levels of hormones, menopause can also occur due to what is known as primary ovarian insufficiency, a condition wherein a woman’s ovaries stop producing normal levels of reproductive hormones before reaching the age of 40. Primary ovarian insufficiency can be brought about by chromosomal defects and autoimmune disorders.

Lastly, medical procedures like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) that is done in conjunction with the removal of both of the ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy), can also induce menopause. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which are common treatment procedures performed on cancer patients, cause toxicity that can damage the cells of the reproductive system. On the other hand, hysterectomy with complete oophorectomy puts a stop to a woman’s ability to release eggs and to produce hormones in the ovaries, thereby causing immediate menopause.

The stages of menopause

The transition that happens during natural menopause usually occurs in three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.


Also known as premenopause or early menopause, perimenopause is the stage wherein women begin experiencing irregular menstrual cycles due to a steady but uneven decline in their hormone levels. Women are still fertile in this stage, but they start to experience changes. Periods can become shorter or longer or occur more or less frequently. Women may also notice that there is sometimes more and sometimes less bleeding than usual. Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes become more common during this time.


When a woman’s periods have stopped completely, then she has finally entered the menopause stage. Changes that occur during menopause may include many physical changes, including hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, weight gain, decreased libido, pain during sexual intercourse, thinning hair, less elastic skin, breast atrophy, vaginal atrophy, osteoporosis, and heart problems. Psychological changes can include spells of depression, anxiety, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.


When a woman has had no periods for at least an entire year, then she has entered the postmenopause stage. Although the severity of the symptoms that were present during the menopause stage can decrease during postmenopause, many of these symptoms will linger because of the continued decline of hormone levels in the body. Women should also be aware that deficiency in these hormones could lead to other health problems like osteoporosis, heart diseases, genitourinary atrophy, decreased muscle strength, and emotional instability.

Aging is inevitable for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for an unhealthy body and a life without vitality. Protecting your wellbeing after menopause is easier if you follow the golden rules of healthy living that you’ve known for many years. These include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and refraining from smoking. You should also ask your healthcare provider if supplementation and hormone replacement therapy could help you manage the symptoms of menopause. This way, you’ll get to enjoy a better quality of life.

John Newman is one of the writers from a National leader of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Institute.

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Stages of Menopause and How It Affects Women