Menopause: How do I know if I’m there?

Menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without a period. The average age of onset for menopause is 52 years old. However, your provider can also perform lab work to determine menopause status, although this is not necessary. The months or years leading up to the last menstrual period is referred to the times as “perimenopause” and is the time period when women begin to have irregular periods. Women may begin to have menopausal symptoms during the perimenopause state, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. However, the true clinical definition of menopause is one year after the woman’s last menstrual period. Women in the perimenopause phase should still use a reliable form of birth control in order to prevent a pregnancy until they reach the menopause phase. During the perimenopause period, especially the time known as the menopausal transition right before menopause onset, it is important to talk to your provider about any symptoms that may be affecting your daily quality of life. Fortunately, there are a variety of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for a majority of these symptoms. Lifestyle changes that may improve the severity of these symptoms include regular exercise, well-balanced diet, vaginal lubricants and moisturizers, smoking cessation, and stress management.

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