What happens during menopause? seems to be on the long list of questions that just never get answered. When did time begin? How do you even know you exist? And which armrest is yours at the movie theater?
This article was reviewed and fact-checked by Dr. Fionnuala Barton.
Dr. Fionnuala Barton is a GP, Women’s Health Doctor, and registered member of the British Menopause Society.
She is passionate about optimizing physical and emotional wellness for women at all stages of life and has a particular interest in early recognition and management of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, POI, PMS, and PMDD.
Dr. Barton is the founder of The Menopause Medic, an independent women’s hormone health clinic that aims to provide empathetic, holistic, personalized, proactive, evidence-based women’s hormone health consultations.
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The difference is, when it comes to the menopause question it really doesn’t have to be this much of a mystery.
Menopause is shrouded in secrecy.
Nobody seems to ever tell us what we might experience, how to deal with the symptoms, or if there’s even a menopause test that will tell us if that’s what we’re going through.
So let’s change up the narrative. For starters:
You’re allowed to talk about menopause. It’s not Fight Club.
So here goes.
In this article: 📝
- What happens when you go through menopause?
- When do periods stop during menopause?
- What happens to hormones during menopause?
- What are the stages of menopause?
- How does menopause affect your body?
- How long does menopause last?
What happens when you go through menopause?
What is menopause like? Well, there’s no one way to answer that.
There’s no one-size-fits-all here.
But knowing the common changes and experiences that you can go through over this time can make the whole thing a little easier to navigate.
When do periods stop during menopause?
Periods stop before menopause—12 months before, to be exact.
That’s the definition of menopause: the thing that happens 12 months after your last period.
The phase that leads up to menopause is known as perimenopause.
What happens to hormones during menopause?
Hormone changes are front and center of the menopause drama. Here’s what’s happening to them:
The soundbite here is that estrogen decreases over perimenopause—but it has a bit of a rocky descent.
Over this transitionary period, your estrogen levels may go up and down.
In some moments, you may have higher levels present than before you even started going through perimenopause.
Yeah, estrogen likes to make quite a performance of its exit.
Many symptoms you may be experiencing, such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes, are the result of the decline of estrogen.
Progesterone is the hormone that’s been helping prepare your body for pregnancy.
It also helps you maintain a pregnancy if it happens.
When your periods stop, you don’t need this hormone anymore.
As progesterone goes, it can (dramatically) make your period longer, heavier, and more irregular.
We think of testosterone as a male hormone that has nothing to do with the female reproductive system.
But in reality, life is more complicated than that.
Testosterone is very much around.
And it does all sorts of things in our bodies to help out with our libido and our bone and muscle density.
The production of testosterone declines over time, not because of menopause but just because we’re getting older.
What are the stages of menopause?
Menopause is not one big bang, but rather a gradual process over a period of time.
The whole menopause experience is roughly divided into three stages:
- Perimenopause. This is the whole period around menopause when your body starts preparing for the change that’s about to occur. It can begin a full decade or more before you actually hit menopause as your hormones start to shift, and lasts up until when menopause hits (when you stop having periods). Hot tip here, you can still get pregnant during this phase. Do what you need to do with that information.
- Menopause. This is when you stop having periods. (Technically measured as the time 12 months after you stop having periods. To be precise.)
- Post-menopause. You haven’t had a period for a year. Good side? Symptoms may start to ease. Downside? Because of the low estrogen levels, you may have a higher risk of health complications like osteoporosis.
How does menopause affect your body?
About 85% of women experience symptoms during the whole menopause process. Some common symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Changes in libido
- Mood changes
You may get some of them. You may get all of them. You may get none of them.
The good news is, while menopause itself is not something to be “fixed”, there are measures that you can take to soothe the symptoms.
How long does menopause last?
If only we could give you an easy answer here. We get it.
Knowing the distance to the light at the end of that tunnel would be just great right now.
Unfortunately, this journey is really individual.
For some women, this life phase starts to come to an end about a year after their last period.
For others, it can carry on for a decade.
Wherever you’re at, you don’t have to be there alone. Support exists.
Talk to your doctor. (We know that it’s not always easy to get enough time to have all your questions answered but we should still fight for it.) Share your experiences. Rally a community around you.
There’s just no reason for us to do this alone anymore.
📚 More on menopause:
Introducing, Peanut Menopause
How to Deal With Menopause
When Does Menopause Start?
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Painful Sex After Menopause? What to Know
Hot Flashes: Causes, Symptoms, and What to Do
What to Know About Menopause Joint Pain
Unusual Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Know
Why Are My Breasts Getting Bigger After Menopause?
Menopause Fatigue: What to Know and What to Do
What to Do About Menopause Bloating
Are You Getting Cramps After Menopause?
Essential Oils for Menopause: What Helps?
What You Need to Know About Menopause Mood Swings
Evening Primrose Oil & Menopause: What’s the Story?
Menopause and Sleep: What’s the Link?
How to Deal With Menopause Headaches
Menopause and Constipation: What’s the Link?
Menopause and Hair Loss: What to Know
What are the 34 Symptoms of Menopause?
Menopause Insomnia: What to Know
What Are The Benefits of Progesterone After Menopause?
Can Menopause Cause High Blood Pressure?
How to Delay Menopause
14 of the Best Menopause Books
What are the Signs Perimenopause is Ending?
What to Know: Menopause and Breast Pain