This natural biological process is the permanent end of fertility. Menopause is the time when the ovaries stop producing hormones at the levels needed to allow sexual reproduction. It typically occurs around age 51.


Perimenopause is a term used to describe the period leading up to menopause. During this time, a woman's body begins the transition to permanent infertility. Perimenopause typically lasts from one to three years. It ends at menopause. During perimenopause, a woman's hormone levels may fluctuate. Periods may become irregular, and fertility levels decrease. A woman may experience changes in sexual function and desire. She may experience hot flashes, sleep problems, mood changes, headaches and urinary issues. A woman may experience changing cholesterol levels and a loss of bone density. Her breasts may become less full, her hair may thin, and her amount of abdominal fat may increase.


As perimenopause progresses, a woman's periods gradually cease. One year after her final menstrual period, a woman is said to have reached menopause. At this point, she is no longer fertile. A woman who has her uterus removed but retains at least one functioning ovary will still experience menopause. In this situation, menopause can be identified by a measure of the level of hormones in the blood.


After a woman has reached menopause, she enters the postmenopausal stage. The symptoms experienced during perimenopause and menopause may continue for some time, or they may stop.

Other Types of Menopause

Some women experience other types of menopause. Premature menopause is menopause that occurs before age 40. Premature menopause may be caused by heredity or disease. It may also be caused by medical treatment or surgery. Induced menopause is a form of menopause caused by surgical removal of the ovaries. It can also be caused by an event that causes both ovaries to stop functioning. Induced menopause is often caused by radiation, chemotherapy or hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries.


Although the process of menopause is natural and does not require treatment, some treatment options may help alleviate its associated symptoms. Treatment options for symptoms of menopause may include over-the-counter aids, prescription medications, hormone replacement therapy, and lifestyle changes.