For many women, the end of their reproductive life signals many challenges; to relationships and careers, to confidence and self-esteem – expanding abdomens, droopy breasts, thinning hair, absent libido, anxiety and brain fog don’t help – and it’s also a time when children leave home and elderly parents need extra care. But knowing what to expect and how to reduce the impact should hopefully mean when your time comes, that transition will be (relatively) seamless.
A woman is deemed menopausal when she’s had no period for a year – usually around age 51 in the UK, though for Black women, it’s about 49. Perimenopause, or menopause transition, is the approximately four-year period before menopause. During the reproductive years, follicles in the ovaries produce estrogen. As the 40s approach, estrogen levels start to fluctuate and gradually fall as follicle numbers decline, resulting in fewer ovulations, irregular periods and the onset of menopause symptoms. On average, these symptoms last about four years, but a few women have symptoms into their 70s or beyond.