What Factors Influence How Long Menopause Lasts?

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Although there is a usual range for how long menopause symptoms last, each woman's journey is unique. The transition often takes about four years, but some symptoms may last longer. There are no hard and fast rules as menopause begins and ends on its own schedule. 

How Long Do Perimenopause and Menopause Last?

Perimenopause, sometimes referred to as menopausal transition, starts when a woman begins experiencing changes in her menstrual cycle (for example, longer or shorter cycles), as well as symptoms related to a decline in estrogen levels—most notably hot flashes.

The majority of women enter perimenopause sometime in their 40s, with the average age being 47. Perimenopause then ends when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months; this is termed menopause.

Note that perimenopause refers to a period of time whereas menopause refers to a point in time—a common misunderstanding and source of confusion.

The period of time after menopause is called postmenopause. During postmenopause, a woman has not had a menstrual cycle for over a year, although she may still be experiencing symptoms related to estrogen deficiency like vaginal atrophy. 

The average length of perimenopause is four years, so the mean age at which a woman reaches menopause is 51 years old. Of course, though, this is simply an average and does not predict the precise duration of time for any individual woman.

How Long Do Menopause-Related Symptoms Last?

Even though menopause marks a point in time in which a woman has not menstruated for 12 months and is no longer ovulating (releasing any eggs from her ovaries), the symptoms of menopause may persist.

Two common menopause-related symptoms are hot flashes and vaginal dryness. These two symptoms occur as a result of the loss of estrogen in the body, normally produced by a woman's ovaries.

Most women stop having hot flashes within five years following their final menstrual period. However, a report on the management of menstrual symptoms notes that the Penn Ovarian Aging Study found that more than one-third of women continued to have moderate to severe hot flashes for 10 years or more. Women who began having hot flashes as they entered perimenopause had them longer, for an average of 11.6 years. African-American women had a longer duration than white women.

Vaginal dryness, burning, and itchiness also occurs as a result of estrogen deficiency. The difference with this symptom is that it tends to get worse as women get older. In fact, less than 30 percent of women in perimenopause or early postmenopause experience vaginal dryness. But as women reach late postmenopause, about half report vaginal dryness. 

There are other symptoms that may begin during perimenopause and persist throughout postmenopause. These include:

Although, while many women attribute these symptoms to menopause, the timing may be coincidental. In other words, it's tricky knowing whether these symptoms are truly from a lack of estrogen in the body or from the natural processes that go along with aging.

Factors That Influence Menopause Duration and Symptoms

Like puberty and pregnancy, perimenopause begins and ends at different times for each woman. There are so many factors influencing the timing and experience of perimenopause that every woman will write her own story. Genetics, lifestyle, diet, stress, general health, and cultural perspective are all elements of when and how dramatically you will experience menopause-related symptoms.

That being said, the vast majority of women will experience their "menopause" in a two- to 10-year window of time, probably from their mid-forties to their mid-fifties.

But even if you begin much earlier or end later, you may still be having your own version of a healthy menopause. And whether you never feel a single hot flash, or continue to have them into your late 60s, it can be “normal” for you.

A Word From Verywell

If your menopause-related symptoms cause you anxiety or negatively impact your quality of life or daily functioning, discuss them with your doctor. There are a number of therapies out there to help you cope with these uncomfortable symptoms including both hormonal and non-hormonal medications, as well as alternative therapies

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