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How long does menopause last?

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on December 14, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Just like getting your first menstrual period during puberty indicates the beginning of fertility, menopause signifies the end of a woman’s ability to conceive. Your body undergoes a great deal of change during the process of menopause. These changes are linked to a drop in the ovaries’ production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Unsurprisingly, a significant change like menopause can come with a lot of questions—such as, “How long does menopause last?”

Keep reading if that question is on your mind, because here we’ll take a look at different life stages connected with menopause and their time frames.


Check hormone levels that may indicate menopause is approaching with the Everlywell at-home Perimenopause Test, or test hormones that can play a role in postmenopause symptoms with the at-home Postmenopause Test.


Understanding menopause

Menopause occurs in three stages. The first stage is perimenopause, which is the gradual transition period leading up to menopause. During this phase, your estrogen levels oscillate up and down, often causing symptoms such as hot flashes. The second stage is actual menopause. You reach this stage when you have not gotten a period in 12 consecutive months. The end of your menstrual cycles is known as postmenopause, which lasts for the rest of your life.

On average, the length of time between the onset of perimenopause and the beginning of postmenopause is typically a few years, but some women experience longer or shorter perimenopause stages. We break the timelines down further later in the article, so keep reading if you want to learn how long you can expect each stage of menopause to last.

How long does each stage of menopause last?

We know the average length of time of each stage of natural menopause, or menopause that does not happen due to medical therapy or surgery. About 5% of women have early menopause which means having menopause between the ages of 40 and 45, while 1% of women may have premature menopause (which means having it before the age of 40 due to a condition called premature ovarian failure).

According to research, surgical menopause also induces menopause before it can happen naturally due to the removal of the ovaries. Chemotherapy can also induce early menopause.

Perimenopause

What is perimenopause and how long does it last? Perimenopause occurs, on average, for about four years. However, for some women, this transition stage can happen very quickly—lasting just a few months—or it can last for up to ten years.

Often, the first symptom is irregular periods, with a difference of 7 days or more between two periods. Because of the hormone fluctuations during perimenopause, periods may be quite unpredictable, with abnormal bleeding that can result in either heavy vaginal bleeding or very little bleeding.

In the late menopausal transition phase, other symptoms and signs of menopause including hot flashes or night sweats (also referred to as vasomotor symptoms), and the beginning of vaginal dryness surface. This phase usually lasts for one to three years before you get your last period.

Other menopause symptoms such as sleep disturbances, weight gain, memory impairment, and mood swings can occur due to the fall in estrogen levels. These are mostly perimenopausal symptoms, but sleep disturbances and weight gain can persist well into the postmenopausal phase in some women.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like these and suspect you may be entering perimenopause, consider taking the at-home Perimenopause Test to check if your levels of key hormones (estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone) fall within established normal ranges.

Postmenopause

Postmenopause is the period in a woman’s life that follows the arrival of menopause and continues on for the rest of a woman’s lifespan. During this stage, some women continue to experience vasomotor symptoms.

Women with lasting or severe symptoms of menopause that involve hot flashes may resort to hormone therapy. The use of estrogen therapy can relieve vasomotor symptoms since these symptoms are caused by a lack of estrogen.

To check how well-balanced your hormones are after menopause, take the at-home Postmenopause Test—which lets you check your levels of estradiol and progesterone, important hormones that can affect your health and well-being after menopause.

What happens after menopause (postmenopause)?

When your body no longer produces the same estrogen levels as before menopause, you may be at increased risk for certain health conditions. The two most serious health risk consequences of menopause are osteoporosis and heart disease.

  • Osteoporosis results from rapid bone loss and slower bone creation. Bones are more likely to break if you have this condition.
  • Heart disease is another health risk for postmenopausal women. Checking your blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly is a good precaution to monitor whether you are at risk for this.

Postmenopausal women have a higher risk for these conditions for the rest of their lives, so be sure to discuss taking necessary precautions with your healthcare provider.

Measuring your hormone levels is a good way to check whether you have started the transition to menopause, or if you have already entered postmenopause. A simple and easy way to do this is with the Perimenopause Test and Postmenopause Test from Everlywell. These at-home tests allow you to collect your sample from the comfort of your home and receive your digital results in days.

Menopause affects every woman differently, so what is normal for you may not be normal for someone else. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your hormone levels or menopausal symptoms with your primary care provider.


What happens during menopause?


References

1. Menopause, Perimenopause and Postmenopause. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed December 14, 2020.

2. Secoșan C, Balint O, Pirtea L, Grigoraș D, Bălulescu L, Ilina R. Surgically Induced Menopause-A Practical Review of Literature. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(8):482. Published 2019 Aug 14. doi:10.3390/medicina55080482M

3. Cancer treatment for women: Possible sexual side effects. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed December 14, 2020.

4. Menopause. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed December 14, 2020.

5. Simon JA, Snabes MC. Menopausal hormone therapy for vasomotor symptoms: balancing the risks and benefits with ultra-low doses of estrogen. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2007;16(12):2005-2020. doi:10.1517/13543784.16.12.2005