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What's the Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause?

What's the Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause?

Menopause marks the time when a woman can no longer get pregnant. It doesn’t just happen one day when you reach a certain age, however. The transition to menopause is a long-term process unique to each woman. 

You may think you’re going through menopause when you’re actually in perimenopause. Perimenopause encompasses the years leading up to menopause, and it’s characterized by well-known symptoms like hot flashes, moodiness, and weight gain. 

Menopause is not diagnosed until you’ve gone 12 months without any period at all. Once you’ve passed through menopause, you’re in postmenopause.

Does this sound confusing? At Capital Women’s Care, we offer education and support for women going through any of these end-of-reproduction stages. Take a moment to learn a little more about the process of menopause, how you can find relief from uncomfortable symptoms, and what it means for your health.

Menopause

You’ve experienced menopause when you haven’t had your monthly period for 12 straight months. Leading up to menopause, you may have spotting, infrequent periods, or erratic bleeding — all indications that you’re not quite to menopause yet.

Though menopause is usually a gradual process, it can occur suddenly if you have your ovaries surgically removed. Natural menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being 51

Perimenopause

Many women say they’re “in menopause” when they’re actually in perimenopause. Perimenopause typically lasts about four years, but it can range from only a few months for some women to 10 years or longer for others. Perimenopause usually starts in your 40s, but it can start slightly earlier for some women.

During perimenopause, you experience the symptoms you associate with menopause, such as:

These symptoms are due to the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that occur during your fertility transition. 

Your periods will likely be irregular — they may be heavier than usual, or you may skip a month or two. But remember, until you’ve gone a full 12 months without a cycle and reached menopause, you’re still in perimenopause and can get pregnant.

Not every woman in perimenopause experiences unpleasant symptoms. Some women have all of them, some have just a few, and others experience none at all. Severity of symptoms also varies. 

If you find that your symptoms of perimenopause are interfering with your quality of life, make an appointment at our office so we can help you manage them with lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy, and medications to improve your mood and lessen hot flashes.

Postmenopause

Once you’ve gone 12 straight months without a period and reach menopause, provided there’s no other condition causing this pause, you’re entering postmenopause. Your hormones will tend to stop fluctuating erratically, so you may feel fewer symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. 

But the decreased estrogen levels that accompany postmenopause put you at risk for a number of health concerns, including osteoporosis and coronary artery disease. We here at Capital Women’s Care monitor your bone and heart health when you’re in the postmenopausal stage so we can prevent major complications. 

If you have questions about your fertility, periods, or menopause, reach out to the experts at Capital Women’s Care. Contact us by calling or using this website to request an appointment.

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