While all women are unique, most go through the same life stages even if they happen at slightly different times. One stage that women go through is menopause. In most women, menopause happens naturally as they age, but for others, it will be caused prematurely by other medical conditions. But, the big question is, how long does menopause last? To answer that question, you need to first understand what menopause is and when it starts.
When Does Menopause Start?
Menopause starts at different times for different women. But before menopause starts, most women will go through a stage called perimenopause. Perimenopause is sometimes confused with menopause itself, but it is really the transitional period that occurs before menstruation stops completely. Most women experience perimenopause in their 40s, but some may see symptoms in their 30s.
Because levels of the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle decrease in your late 30s, periods after this point may become irregular. Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness may start, but the main symptom of perimenopause is irregular periods. The average length of perimenopause is around 4 years.
Eventually, the hormone levels will be low enough that menstruation stops altogether, which is when menopause begins.
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all number for the length of time menopause lasts. The intensity and duration of symptoms can vary greatly between individuals. For most women, symptoms will last for an average of 5 years, but some women may experience them longer. As time goes on, many women report that their symptoms are not as intense and episodes of hot flashes and night sweats are less frequent.
Dealing with Symptoms During Menopause
When many women ask, “how long does menopause last?” what they really want to know is how long they are going to be dealing with unpleasant symptoms. But, symptoms can be managed so that your quality of life is not affected too much by menopause. Common symptoms women may need to manage during menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Emotional changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased libido
- Hair loss
- Unwanted body hair growth
- Weight gain and/or change in weight distribution
Menopause symptoms can be treated or managed in a number of ways, including medication and lifestyle changes.
Hormone replacement therapy is an option for some women to help deal with the symptoms listed above. Make sure you talk to a doctor who is knowledgeable in menopause management and hormone replacement to see if the treatment is right for you. Hormone replacement can cause certain complications and should be monitored and adjusted as needed.
Topical hormonal treatments can be good for treating vaginal changes. Lubricants with low doses of estrogen can help with dryness and painful intercourse. These are available in the form of cream, rings, and tablets.
Non-hormonal medications to help symptoms may include:
- Antidepressants for mood changes. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are not only effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression, but they can help with hot flashes as well.
- Sleep medications for insomnia.
- Medications that protect against osteoporosis
- Topical treatments for both hair loss and unwanted body hair growth
- Non-hormonal vaginal lubricants and moisturizers.
Adjustments to daily life can also help you manage the symptoms of menopause:
- Eating right and exercising can help with weight management and improve your mood.
- Wearing lightweight clothing and using breathable bedding can help you cope with hot flashes. Limit drinking and stop smoking, as it has been shown that these activities can worsen symptoms.
- Ask your doctor about supplements that might help and any alternative remedies you are considering.
Make an Appointment
Heading into a life change like menopause can be overwhelming and intimidating, but choosing the right doctor to provide guidance and treatment can make things a lot easier. Chapel Hill Gynecology specializes in menopause management and hormone therapy, so if you have questions or concerns about menopause and how you can treat symptoms, Dr. Karen Clark and staff are here to help. To make an appointment call us at 919-960-2720. You can also request an appointment online.