Menopause (also known as the change of life) is the time when your body changes and you become infertile.
It is a natural event which happens to every woman. It occurs when your ovaries stop working and you stop producing the usual amount of two important female sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. It is this change in hormone levels that causes the symptoms of menopause.
The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 52. But any time between 45 and 55 years old is considered normal.
Women who have had both ovaries removed will go through menopause earlier.
Periods during menopause
Many women find that their periods become lighter during menopause, although some may experience heavy bleeding. They may also experience an erratic pattern, which may last two to five years before periods stop completely (see ‘perimenopause’).
When a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months, she is considered to have been through menopause.
Pregnancy is still possible during menopause. So if you are going through menopause and don’t want to become pregnant, keep using contraception even after your last period – one year should be enough if you’re over 50, but two years is recommended if you’re under 50.
Menopause that happens earlier than the ‘expected’ age of around 50 years is called premature or early menopause.
Some medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and genetics conditions, can cause the menopause to happen much earlier, sometimes when a woman is in her ‘20s or – in extreme cases – in childhood. This is known as ‘premature ovarian failure’ (POF).
There are ways to ease the symptoms of early menopause – talk to your doctor.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about the menopause, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015