When does menopause start? (and for the love of God, when is it going to be over?)
Like anything else that’s been going strong for a long time, menstruation doesn’t just screech to a sudden unexpected stop on a random day. Long before your last-ever period, your body starts prepping for its next phase—sometimes years in advance.
This pre-game is called perimenopause. That’s when the stash of eggs in your ovaries is running close to empty, causing your estrogen to begin its descent to the unfamiliar low point that menopause ultimately brings. If your periods have started to waver from their normal, you’re probably in peri territory.
Trouble concentrating? Not sleeping well? Hair falling out? Surprise weight gain? Breasts losing elevation ? Mmmm hmmm. Menopause symptoms. Maybe you’ve got more body aches than you’re used to. Maybe some crankiness, anxiety, depression or even rage is creeping into your personality. Maybe you’re breaking out in hot flashes while everyone around you seems perfectly comfortable. Maybe your vagina isn’t even behaving the way you expect it to.
So what’s the actual timeline on this? Is there a “menopause age?”
For some women, perimenopause pops up before age 40. Others are 60 or even older before they notice it. For most women, it’ll happen somewhere between 45 and 55,1 and last about 4 years.2 You might start feeling the effects a decade before your final period, or you might not be bothered more than a few months before menopause.
Menopause, according to its official definition, is simply your last period. After 12 months of zero periods, you’re in post menopause.1 The reasoning behind this is one of the mysteries of life, since the lovely symptoms of menopause mentioned above keep coming for you long after your last period. How long? That’s another mystery. It’s different for everyone. Four to five years is the usual. But some women are stuck with symptoms for ten years plus.
We sent men to the moon. Surely we can identify a precise menopause age range for women.
You’d think so, wouldn’t you. A bunch of different studies point to a similar sized bunch of different factors that affect the menopause timeline. Your age when you got your first period. Whether or not you’ve been on the pill. How many times you’ve been pregnant. Your BMI. Your smoking and drinking habits. How physically fit you are. Honestly, there’s good science behind these studies. But sometimes the findings conflict. For example, some research shows no family relationship, yet one study shows a definite association between the age of a woman’s menopause and the age of her mother’s.3
You can think of this as scientific proof that we’re all unique and different, and that what happened to women in clinical studies isn’t necessarily what’s going to happen to YOU. You just kind of have to see how it goes.
But you don’t have to be a martyr. If hot flashes and muscle aches are bothering you, it’s never too early or too late to take a natural*, plant-based, non-prescription supplement like Equelle®, which contains an ingredient that has a similar structure to estrogen. It binds to select estrogen receptors in the body to help you feel like yourself, even if your body seems to be changing beyond recognition. Menopause may not be preventable. Or predictable. But at least now it’s manageable.
*The active ingredient in Equelle, S-equol, is a plant-based, naturally derived compound.
- US National Institutes of Aging. What is Menopause? Webpage: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause. Accessed on 05Sept2019.
- US Office of Women’s Health. Menopause Basics. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics#11. Webpage: Accessed on 05Sept2019.
- Torgerson et al. Maturitas. 1994; 19(2): 83-92.