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Menopause occurs when a woman no longer has menstrual periods. Women reach menopause after not having their periods for a year. Women may experience menopause symptoms (such as hot flashes) before that time.

Menopause: what you should know

  • Years before menopause, you may experience longer or shorter periods, hot flashes and mood changes, or no changes at all. This transition time is called perimenopause.
  • You may reach menopause as early as age 40 or as late as 55; the average age is 51. Menopause happens when your ovaries stop making the hormones estrogen and protesterone.
  • You can still get pregnant during perimenopause, which typically lasts between two and eight years. But you can’t get pregnant naturally after you reach menopause.
  • Most times menopause occurs on its own, but sometimes it can happen because of surgery, such as a hysterectomy, or medicines.
  • Hormone changes related to menopause put you at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. So it’s important to exercise and stop smoking.

How can I get help for menopause symptoms?

Talk to your primary care or OB-GYN doctor if you have the following:

  • Periods that are unusually heavy or light or are longer or shorter than usual
  • Vaginal dryness or urinary problems, such as urinary tract infections
  • Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Mood swings that cause problems in your relationships or work
  • Sexual problems
  • A smoking habit you want to quit
  • A desire to eat healthier and exercise more