The menopausal transition, or simply “menopause,” is a normal part of female aging. Once you start the transition, you’ll probably want to know exactly how long symptoms will last.
While every woman is different, here’s what to expect on average.
All women experience menopause, with several different symptoms.The symptoms vary from woman to woman, and menopause is as unique a journey as the woman herself.
Menopause symptoms may include:
- Hot flashes
- Sleep problems / insomnia
- Mood Swings / irritability
- Pain during sex / vaginal dryness
- Dry skin, dry eyes or dry mouth
- Urinary urgency (a pressing need to urinate more frequently)
In few cases, women don’t have trouble with these symptoms. Once the menopausal transition is complete, you will no longer have to worry about periods or getting pregnant.
For most women, menopause is a relief that feels freeing in many ways. Getting through the transition, however, can be trying.
Knowing about how long your symptoms will last can help you focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. While you’re going through abrupt hot flashes and night sweats that keep you awake at night as well as irritability from lack of sleep, knowing that you’re just X amount of days from it being over can ease your mind.
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While there is no guarantee of exactly how long the transition will last, you can get a good idea of where you are on the journey by understanding the process and studying an average timeline.
The Average Timeline for Menopause
The menopause age range varies by more than a decade. The average age is 51, but menopause can start in women from their mid-40s to late 50s. Most women experience the menopause stage in this age range, while some report symptoms into their 60s.
Late menopause and early menopause are possible, and can occur for a variety of reasons, such as surgeries or hormonal changes.
Symptoms such as mood swings, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes mark the start of the change. Premenopausal symptoms and age can vary. Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure whether you’re beginning the menopausal transition.
The premenopausal stage can last from 10 months to four years. It involves the body gradually decreasing in estrogen production. Premenopause officially ends when a women does not have her period for 12 consecutive months. At this point, the woman enters menopause.
From the start of premenopause to the final cessation of all menopausal symptoms, the average transition takes between two and 10 years. There are some women who go through the process more quickly or more slowly than usual.
If you experience early or late menopause, you may need to add or subtract a year or two to this average timeline. Every woman should rely on medical professionals to assess symptoms, estimate the duration and prescribe treatments for symptom relief.
Do You Have Early or Late Menopause?
Figuring out if you’re going through the transition early or late can help you gain a better understanding of how long menopause will last. If you start having irregular periods in your mid-40s, you may be experiencing early or premature menopause.
Heavy bleeding, spotting, a period after a year of no periods, or periods that are noticeably longer or shorter than normal can all signal early menopause, especially in combination with other common menopausal symptoms.
If you are 55 or older and still haven’t noticed menopause symptoms, your doctor may diagnose you with late-onset menopause.
Late menopause may actually have some health benefits, while early menopause could potentially cause problems. During menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries declines. In early-onset menopause, this cessation may cause problems such as osteoporosis. The longer your ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, the longer you can avoid osteoporosis.
If you’re still having periods in your late 50s and 60s, see your doctor. Each woman’s reproductive system is different, so don’t be alarmed until you’ve spoken to a doctor.
Treating Menopause Symptoms
You may experience one or several symptoms, or hardly any symptoms at all. You may not notice premenopausal symptoms until you’ve almost reached the menopause phase. Your entire transition could finish in just a few years, or could last longer than a decade.
Everyone is unique, and there is no concrete answer. It takes seeing a primary doctor to evaluate your symptoms, locate where you are on the general timeline, and estimate how much longer you will have to put up with symptoms.
While you are combating symptoms for an unknown period of time, look into common forms of relief. If you have medical conditions exacerbating the symptoms of menopause, such as arthritis, chronic pain, anxiety or depression, your doctor can help address these issues to potentially reduce menopause symptoms.
Menopause is a normal part of life, and several tried-and-true treatment options exist to help control and tolerate common symptoms. You can maintain your desired lifestyle while experiencing menopause with a tailored treatment plan.