Don’t confuse menopause with perimenopause (the time leading up to the end of your period). After your period has stopped for 12 consecutive months, you are officially menopausal.
Does menopause ever end?
On her site, Dr. Louise Newson of the Newson Health, Menopause and Wellbeing Centre, states that on average, women can spend nearly a third of their life post-menopausal. (1)
It’s easy to confuse menopause with its symptoms. You know the ones we are talking about – hot flashes, night sweats, memory struggles, weight gain, and so on. Do those annoying perimenopausal symptoms ever stop?
Menopause is unique for every woman and begins and ends at different times. So many factors influence the timing and individual experience of menopause—diet, genetics, general health, lifestyle, stress, even cultural perspective.
For most women, perimenopause lasts between two to ten years, and will likely begin during their mid-forties to mid-fifties. (2)
Keep reading to learn more about what to expect about the end of menopause.
Perimenopausal Symptoms and Potential Duration
Most women begin experiencing perimenopause and its symptoms in their 40s and 50s, younger if surgically induced (3). However, according to Science Daily, 42% of 2000 women surveyed aged 60-65 still experienced hot flashes (4).
Hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed to women to ease their perimenopausal symptoms. Nearly 10% of those aged 60-65 using hormone therapy, however, still experienced hot flashes. It’s worth noting that post-menopausal women younger than 55 and as old as 65 continued experiencing persistent hot flashes (4).
The same study found that women not using vaginal estrogen (44% of perimenopausal women, and 68% of post-menopausal women) reported dryness and painful intercourse. Symptoms persisted in 62% of post-menopausal women aged 60–65. Despite the high rate of symptoms, only eight percent of older women used vaginal estrogen. (4)
The data is unclear if estrogen reduction causes other perimenopausal symptoms. Sleep loss, mood changes, cognitive changes (like memory loss), or muscle and joint pain may be due to different natural aging processes.
Using hormone replacement therapy is only recommended for ten years, and only for three to five years after age 60. Women over 60 experiencing acute symptoms don’t have a hormone therapy option under these guidelines. (3)
But – there is so much contradictory and confusing evidence that every woman needs to find a healthcare provider that is up to date with the most recent research.
Several non-hormonal medications can also relieve perimenopausal symptoms. Certain types of antidepressants, drugs for nerve pain, and blood pressure medications can also provide relief from symptoms.
Specific behavioral and dietary changes can also help ease symptoms—like breathing exercises, layered clothing, and lowering your thermostat are some options. Dietary recommendations suggest avoiding caffeine, alcohol, hot beverages, and spicy foods. Also, stress-reduction techniques like meditation and staying cool in general, are ways to ease perimenopausal symptoms. (5)
Menopause Doesn’t End, But the Symptoms Will
For most women, symptoms like hot flashes often stop within five years of their last period. A report citing a Penn Ovarian Aging Study states more than 30% of women continued having moderate to severe hot flashes for ten years or longer. African-American women reported having hot flashes longer than white women. (2)
The end of menopause will be different for every woman. Consult your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms and treatment recommendations for your unique situation. Read more about menopause and techniques to cope on our blog