Updated: DECEMBER 9, 2019
Menopause is the phase of a person's life when their menstrual period ceases. This may occur naturally or after surgery or taking certain medication, including cancer treatments. People who menstruate typically reach menopause around 50 years of age. Menopause occurs when the levels of estrogen and progesterone made by the ovaries fall below those needed for ovulation to occurs and the lining of the uterus to develop and shed. When these hormone levels are low, menstruation does not occur for an extended period and a woman is no longer fertile.
Menopause comes after perimenopause. During perimenopause, a person's ovaries become less efficient. People in perimenopause experience some menopausal symptoms and irregular periods. Postmenopause, which occurs 12 months after a person’s final period, happens after menopause.
More About Menopause
Various symptoms are associated with menopause. In addition to periods stopping, people commonly experience hot flushes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, reduced libido, aching joints, night sweats, and sleeping difficulties. Most of these problems stem from varying estrogen levels during menopause. A person’s age during menopause, reproductive history, diet, lifestyle, climate, and genetics can all influence their experience of this transitional period.
The vaginal dryness and lost libido commonly associated with menopause can make sex uncomfortable and undesirable for many menopausal people. The restless nights and night swears many people experience can also leave them too tired to want sex. Some couples aren’t too concerned with the changes in their sex life menopause often brings, while others struggle. Communication is vital at this period of transition. Counselling may be beneficial for some couples. Relaxation exercises can also help people feel less anxious about sex, which can reduce discomfort.
Many people simply ride out their menopause symptoms. Others find modifying their diet, taking natural and complementary therapies, hormone replacement therapy, or prescription medications can make menopause more bearable. While people in menopause have reduced fertility, some can and do still conceive during this period of transition. Birth control is recommended for at least 12 months after a final period to prevent pregnancy.