What does postmenopausal mean?

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on Jan 25, 2021. 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.


You’re likely well aware of the term “menopause” and what it means—a woman permanently reaching the end of her menstrual cycles. You may have even heard of perimenopause along with some of its signs and symptoms. However, you may be wondering, “What is the meaning of ‘postmenopausal’?”

In short, postmenopause is an important stage of a woman’s life, coming immediately after menopause.

While at-home postmenopause tests can help you to better understand your menopausal state, it’s important to know the common signs that signal the beginning of this period. Read on to learn more about what happens during postmenopause that makes it different from menopause, how long it lasts, and the treatments that are available to you as a postmenopausal woman.

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What does postmenopause mean, and how is it different from menopause?

The best way to answer the question, “What does postmenopausal mean?” is to examine the three stages of menopause.

Perimenopause is the first step of this process. Also known as the menopause transition, this stage will typically begin in your 40s, when your ovaries slowly start making less estrogen. On average, this menopausal transition period can last eight to 10 years, and you will still experience vaginal bleeding during your period. Many premenopausal women can also still conceive during this time, so it’s important to continue using birth control. About one to two years before menopause, your estrogen levels will drop even more and you may start to experience menopausal symptoms.

Menopause occurs when you haven’t had a menstrual period in 12 months. Your ovaries are no longer releasing eggs and they are producing much less estrogen. Menopausal women often experience symptoms that range from hot flashes to vaginal dryness.

Postmenopause is the rest of your life after menopause. In addition to no longer having a menstrual cycle, your menopause symptoms may begin to ease or disappear during this time. However, some women will continue to have vasomotor symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes for a decade or longer.

How long does postmenopause last?

The postmenopause period itself lasts for the rest of your life after menopause. However, how long menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms last varies from woman to woman.

What are common postmenopausal symptoms?

As a menopausal woman, you’ll likely experience symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and weight gain. While some women may be able to put these symptoms in the past, others may continue to experience these and other postmenopausal symptoms due to low estrogen levels.

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Irritability
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Vaginal dryness

Some women may also experience vaginal bleeding after menopause due to certain noncancerous conditions.

  • Atrophic vaginitis (vaginal atrophy), or thinning of the vaginal tissue
  • Endometrial hyperplasia, or an unusually thick uterine lining
  • Endometrial atrophy, or thinning of the uterine lining
  • Endometrial polyps or fibroids

In rarer cases, postmenopausal bleeding can be due to endometrial, or uterine, cancer. If you have abnormal postmenopausal bleeding, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and take a medical history. He or she may also order tests like a transvaginal ultrasound or an endometrial biopsy to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan.

What are the potential postmenopausal health risks?

In addition to triggering postmenopausal symptoms in some women, the lower estrogen levels can also cause certain health risks. Two of the biggest issues relate to bone and heart health.

  • Heart disease: As a woman, you have a lower risk of heart disease than a man before the age of 55. However, cholesterol can start building up in the arteries once estrogen levels drop after menopause. As a result, you have the same risk of heart disease as a man by the age of 70.
  • Postmenopausal osteoporosis: Less estrogen can also cause you to lose bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis. This condition causes your bone mass to weaken, become more brittle, and become more prone to fracture. To combat this problem, your healthcare provider will likely encourage you to increase your calcium and vitamin D intake.

You can also help reduce your risk of developing these and other health problems by eating a balanced diet and getting regular physical activity. Additionally, you should go for regular health screenings, including bone density screening and mammograms for breast cancer screening.

What can you take for postmenopause?

There’s no need to take anything for postmenopause unless you’re experiencing certain symptoms or have a hormonal imbalance. If you’re having bothersome problems like hot flashes or vaginal dryness, you should meet with your healthcare provider to discuss your treatment options.

  • Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen is one of the most effective treatments for menopausal hot flashes, and it can also help with bone loss. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to take both progesterone and estrogen when doing hormone therapy if you still have your uterus. As with estrogen, there are associated health benefits of progesterone after menopause, which helps to thin the uterine lining and reduce the risk of developing endometrial, or uterine, cancer.
  • Vaginal estrogen is a hormone therapy option to treat vaginal dryness that can cause sex to be uncomfortable. This treatment is available as a vaginal cream, tablet, or ring.
  • Antidepressants can help many women with the symptoms of anxiety and depression that can sometimes occur during menopause and postmenopause.

Learn more about your postmenopausal hormone health with the Everlywell at-home Postmenopause Test, which allows you to easily check your estradiol and progesterone levels from the comfort of home.


References

1. Menopause, Perimenopause and Postmenopause. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

2. What Is Menopause?. National Institute of Aging. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

3. Postmenopause. Dignity Health. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

4. Menopause and your health. Office on Women's Health. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

5. Menopause. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

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