When does menopause actually start and at what age? The simplest answer is "when your eggs start to run out". Because when you have fewer follicles, you produce less oestrogen. It varies from woman to woman, but for most women, oestrogen and other hormone levels in the body start to drop in their late 40s. But various symptoms can start much earlier than that. For most women, menopause doesn't come suddenly, but the first sign may be that your period starts to change, to be different. Perhaps irregular, heavier or thinner. Because you still have your period, and ovulation, you may still be able to get pregnant.
How long does menopause last? The years before and after your last period are called menopause. The length of menopause varies, but it is a phase in a woman's life that lasts between 6 months and 5 years (sometimes longer), so the length of menopause can vary from woman to woman. The last period, occurs on average at the age of 51. However, it is common from age 44 to 57 and each woman will experience menopause in her own unique way. For some, menopause is earlier, for others later.
Research on twins and sisters shows that when menopause happens strongly depends on hereditary factors. So take a look at your mum or sister and maybe you can get an idea of when it's time for you. However environment and lifestyle are also important. For example, smoking can make menopause debut earlier and an active lifestyle or being overweight can make a later debut.
Menopause at 20, 21, 23, 25 or 30 years? It can be called early menopause or premature menopause when you reach menopause at or before the age of 40. In most cases, the cause is unknown but it can be due to hysterectomy, treatment for cancer (chemotherapy or radiotherapy), genetic or autoimmune causes. If you suspect that you are already in menopause at the age of 30 or 40, you need to be assessed by a gynecologist, as it could be another underlying condition. Symptoms of early menopause are the same as older women going through the menopause, but they tend to be more severe, as it seems that oestrogen levels drop more suddenly, and it is more of a shock to the body.
There is no test or blood test that can show that you are in menopause, but one piece of the puzzle to find out if the menopause has begun is to take a blood test called FSH. The FSH value increases before and during menopause because the hormone is among other things, involved in regulating the production of oestrogen and progesterone.
Premature menopause not only makes you infertile and unable to have children, but also increases the risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and is linked to poorer survival. It also reduces sexual well-being. Hormone replacement is therefore particularly important in cases of premature or early menopause.
When is menopause over?
After menopause, oestrogen levels in the body will continue to drop for about 5 years. After that, they will be at a very low and steady level. Menopause is over and many of the symptoms often disappear. Your mood swings evens out and the body's thermostat has adapted to the new hormone levels.
Men and menopause
Do men enter menopause and at what age? Men, like women, go through a natural ageing process. From about the age of 30, testosterone levels decrease by about 1-2 per cent per year. In the long term, this can cause changes in sex drive and, for example, reduced bone and muscle strength. However, men will never experience such a drastic drop in hormone levels as women do during the menopause.