What are the differences between perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause?
Perimenopause means “around menopause” and it’s defined as the time leading up to menopause. It’s the point when your reproductive hormones first start to change. Some distinctions regarding perimenopause include:
- You still have your period (unlike actual menopause), but they become irregular.
- On average, most women go through perimenopause in their mid-40s.
- It’s still possible to get pregnant during the perimenopause stage.
Menopause begins when your menstrual period ends. However, this point is hard to detect because of the irregularity that comes with perimenopause. You’ve officially “gone through menopause” after you’ve naturally gone 12 months without a menstrual period, so your menopause experience includes that entire 12 months. Once menopause is confirmed, you can no longer get pregnant.
Postmenopause is the time of your life after that 12 months without a period.
What’s the average age for menopause onset? Why does it vary so much?
The average age for menopause in the United States is 51.
But menopause can happen any time in your 40s or 50s — or even earlier. Menopause that happens before the age of 40 is called premature menopause, and menopause that happens between the ages of 40-45 is called early menopause.
About 5% of women naturally experience early menopause. Other reasons for premature and early menopause can include (but are not limited to):
- Family history
- Medical treatments
- Surgeries to remove the ovaries or uterus
- Health conditions such as autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, HIV, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more
Apart from premature and early menopause, menopause can happen naturally as your reproductive hormones decrease. As you reach your upper 30s, your ovaries tend to make less progesterone and estrogen, causing your fertility to decline. Eventually (around age 51 on average) your ovaries stop releasing eggs, and your menstrual period stops.
Do birth control pills delay menopause?
Many women prefer taking birth control pills in their late 40s since they can help control irregular bleeding that may happen during perimenopause.
The combined pill (containing estrogen and progestin) doesn’t have the ability to “delay menopause”, but it may mask some of the effects associated with menopause — such as hot flashes and night sweats.
If you’re taking the combined pill, you won’t be able to know whether or not you’re menopausal since the hormones in the pill can affect your period. For example, even if you’re no longer menstruating naturally, the hormones in the pill can still promote monthly bleeding, “tricking” you into thinking you still have your period.
Most doctors recommend getting off the combined pill by age 50 for the sake of avoiding blood clots. This is close to the average age of menopause (51), so going off the pill at this time will allow you to see if you’ve reached menopause yet.
Is it weird if I don’t experience any menopause symptoms (besides changes in my period)?
It’s not weird! Uncommon, but not weird.
It’s estimated that around 85% of postmenopausal women have dealt with a menopause-related symptom. If you haven’t experienced any yet, consider yourself part of that lucky 15% so far!
How can I find a menopause healthcare professional?
The North American Menopause Society (ALN founder, Stacey Last is a proud member of NAMS!) has a search feature that can help you find a menopause practitioner in your area.
How common are hot flashes during menopause? How can I ease them?
If you’ve experienced menopause hot flashes, you’re not alone.
Around 80% of women going through menopause experience them. Aside from unnatural treatments such as hormone therapy and prescription drugs, some natural hot-flash remedies include:
- Avoiding hot drinks and environments
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
- Avoiding spicy (or other historically triggering) foods
- Dressing in layers during the colder months. See this article for more tips on dealing with menopause in the winter.
- Meditation and deep breathing
- Gels and creams with wild yam
Be sure to check out the other amazing ingredients in our natural menopause relief products.
Does exercise actually help when dealing with menopause? If so, what’s the ideal frequency of exercise?
100% yes! While exercise isn’t a guaranteed way to alleviate menopause discomforts, exercise and overall fitness are still extremely important during menopause. Some benefits include:
- Improved mood
- Improved sleep
- Preventing weight gain
- Strengthening your bones and preventing osteoporosis
- Reducing stress
- Reducing the risk of various diseases
For menopausal women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends a combination of moderate aerobic activity (150+ minutes), vigorous aerobic activity (75+ minutes), and strength training (twice) throughout each week.
Our top tips for establishing an exercise routine during menopause are:
- Pick a realistic routine that you can actually stick to.
- Set specific, achievable goals. For example, set a goal to walk for at least 20 minutes per day at a specific time each day.
- Assess and update your goals each week.
- Find an exercise buddy. Accountability and companionship can go a long way.
- Always warm up and cool down (stretch).
- Do things you love.
Don’t forget, non-obvious tasks like gardening and babysitting count as exercise too!
How can I distinguish between moodiness and depression during menopause?
Research shows that mood swings are more common during perimenopause, as your body undergoes drastic hormonal changes. On top of that, you might be experiencing other things that could make anyone feel moody, such as:
- Disrupted sleep
- Unpredictable hot flashes
- Itchiness from dry skin
So if you find yourself laughing one minute and feeling bluesy the next, give yourself some grace! Navigating menopause isn’t easy, and you’re not alone.
Most menopause-related mood swings tend to be short and inconsistent, so they usually don’t match the symptoms of clinical depression. Depression symptoms tend to last most of the day and happen nearly every day. These symptoms can include feelings such as:
There is no conclusive evidence linking decreased estrogen to clinical depression, and depression is most frequent for women between the ages of 25 and 44. However, women with a history of depression may be vulnerable to depression during menopause.
If you think your feelings align closely with the symptoms listed above and last most of the day, we encourage you to reach out to your doctor to discuss the possibility of depression.
How can I deal with decreased libido throughout menopause?
This is a multi-layered question, as menopause does not directly imply decreased libido because your testosterone levels do not drop significantly during menopause. It’s true that sexual desire tends to decrease with age but not for everyone. Some women experience an increase in desire or no change at all.
We recommend taking inventory of the possible causes and talking with your healthcare provider to help identify the leading cause. There are so many cultural, personal, psychological, biological, medical, etc. factors at play here!
However, if your decreased desire is linked to vaginal dryness, you’ll want to read the next question.
How can I treat vaginal dryness during menopause?
Our Vaginal Replenishment Gel is formulated to treat vaginal dryness during menopause. Fortified with wild yam, seaweed, and vitamin E — it works to match your body’s pH and restore its natural lubrication.
Also, experts recommend regular sexual stimulation as a natural way to keep the vagina healthy and lubricated while maintaining its elasticity.
We’re here for you.
Just as we’re here to answer your menopause FAQs, we’re here to help you navigate all the ups and downs that come with menopause. Be sure to check out the rest of Our Journal for tips on navigating everything from diet to changing seasons during menopause.
As always, let us know if you have questions about how our natural menopause relief products can improve your menopause journey!