How Long Does Menopause Last?

The transition takes about four years but some symptoms last longer

Two women having a discussion
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Menopause is a hallmark point in time for women and begins and ends on its own schedule. But once the symptoms start, women want to know, "How long will this go on?" 

Although there is a usual range for how long menopause symptoms last, it's important to understand that each woman's journey is unique. In other words, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to predicting menopause. 

How Long Does 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.

The good news about hot flashes is that most women stop having them within five years of onset. That being said, less commonly, women have hot flashes for several years, even persisting into their sixties and seventies.

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

In the end, 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.

 

Sources:

Andrews JC. Vasomotor symptoms: an evidence-based approach to medical management. J Clin Outcomes Manage. 2011 Mar;18(3):112-128.

Goodman NF, Cobin RH, Ginzburg SB, Katz IA, Woode DE. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice for the diagnosis and treatment of menopause: executive summary of recommendations. Endocr Pract. 2011 Nov-Dec;17(6):949-54.

Huang AJ et al. Vaginal symptoms in postmenopausal women: self-reported severity, natural history, and risk factors. Menopause. 2010 Jan-Feb;17(1):121-26. 

The North American Menopause Society. (2014). The Menopause Practice: A Clinician’s Guide, 5th ed. Mayfield Heights, OH: The North American Menopause Society.

WomensHealth.gov. (September 2010). Menopause

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