How Long Does Menopause Last? Exploring the Duration and Phases

Last updated 11.24.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 10 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


This is an interesting topic, and I can speak on it endlessly. To answer the question of how long menopause lasts, the answer will be that it lasts forever till the time you live. Once you have reached the menopausal age, and you’ve gone without periods for a whole year, you are into menopause. Your menses won’t return. The time that follows is the postmenopause stage. But menopause doesn’t happen overnight. 

A friend said, “Until 40 I was in the best of health. Things started going haywire after that. First, it was irregular menses, followed by sleep issues. My digestion would sometimes get affected too. And, not to forget the hot flashes, which I eventually learned to manage.” 

She isn’t alone. This must be the story of most of us in our mid-40s. That’s the perimenopause or menopause transition phase. Your body is going through changes and preparing you for menopause. It takes about four years, on average, to transition into menopause. Still, the numbers vary from one woman to the other. 

My sister didn’t have any symptoms until she was 50 and had her menopause at 52. Contrastingly, my friend experienced symptoms at 40, while for her, the menses completely stopped at 52. It was a good 12 years. That’s why I say it varies from one woman to another. 

Are you in your mid-40s? Have you experienced any symptoms of menopause? Irrespective of whether you have or haven’t, this article will immensely help you understand the duration and stages of menopause. I will run you through essential facts like the stages of menopause, the symptoms, and the duration of each stage. So, here we go.

All You Need To Know About Menopause Its Phases and Duration
PhasesDuration
Perimenopause4-5 years; 7 / 8 to 14 years (maximum)
MenopauseLasts forever
PostmenopauseFrom menopause till the end of one's life

How Long do the Stages of Menopause Last?

As I mentioned, menopause is a natural and biological process that begins when you haven’t had your periods for a whole year. It marks the end of your menstrual cycle. Nothing happens overnight. It’s a slow and gradual process through which you will transition into menopause.

The entire menopause transition can be divided into three phases – perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Let’s get a detailed insight 

Stage 1 – Perimenopause

From all that I mentioned before, it is clear that perimenopause precedes menopause. Perimenopause actually means around menopause. So, it’s quite clear that we are referring to the transition phase.

When does it start?

Most women experience perimenopause at 40-44 years on average. However, in some, it can occur prematurely when they are around 30-35 years of age. Few women experience the perimenopause symptoms quite late, in their mid-50s. In such cases, perimenopause lasts for a short span, and then the menstrual cycle stops completely.

What is the duration of perimenopause?

The average timespan for perimenopause is 4 years. However, the duration varies from one woman to the other. While 4 years is the average time for the perimenopause phase, in some women it could be as long as 7-14 years. Contrastingly, in some, it could last for just a couple of months

What happens in perimenopause?

In perimenopause, the ovaries eventually go on to produce less estrogen hormones than before. However, the decline isn’t consistent. They happen in an irregular pattern – rising sharply or falling steeply. This affects the menstrual cycle, resulting in very heavy or extremely light bleeding. 

My menses started getting irregular in my mid-40s. In one cycle, it would be heavy, and in the next cycle, the bleeding would be extremely scarce. 

In the late perimenopause stage, the estrogen levels drop drastically. It is at this time that people experience more symptoms of menopause than before.

What are the symptoms of perimenopause?

The signs of perimenopause are almost similar to the menopause symptoms. The first warning sign is irregular periods – too high or too low. Sometimes, you could even miss your periods in a few cycles. Other symptoms also include: 

Other symptoms also include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Urge to urinate more
  • Problems with sleep
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability 
  • Concentration issues
  • Depression
  • Fragile bones
  • Lessened fertility

How do you know that perimenopause has ended?

If you haven’t had your periods for more than a year, that means you aren’t in the perimenopause stage any longer. You have entered the menopause stage.

Stage 2 – Menopause

The end of perimenopause marks the beginning of menopause. No periods for twelve months in a row means menopause has set in.

When does it start?

In most women, the mean age for menopause is 45-55 years. However, it may happen as early as 40-45 years. Menopause occurring before 40 years of age is premature menopause.

What is the duration of menopause?

The transition phase, i.e. the time between perimenopause and menopause, lasts for a minimum of four years and a maximum of seven to eight years, Fourteen years is the longest time frame. But, there isn’t any timeframe for menopause as it lasts forever.

What happens in menopause?

When a woman transitions into the menopause phase, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and making estrogen and progesterone. That’s why after menopause, a woman loses the ability to get pregnant. The ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus all of them decrease in size after menopause.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

The symptoms of menopause and their severity differ from one woman to the other. For instance, some women could suffer from night sweats and hot flashes more. Whereas some may have fragile bones. Most of the symptoms you face during perimenopause will be carried up to menopause as well, till the time your period ceases. Some common signs are:

Some common signs are:

  • A stopped menstrual cycle 
  • Night sweats 
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Insomnia 
  • Mood swing 

Some women may also have other symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle pain
  • Weight gain
  • Concentration problem
  • Hair loss
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Skin problem
  • Burning sensation of the mouth, and tongue 
  • Dry mouth and eyes

Stage 3 – Postmenopause

The term menopause and postmenopause could be confusing, but both have significant differences. When you don’t get your periods for over a year, that means you’ve entered into menopause. Now, the time that follows menopause is postmenopause, which continues till the last days of a woman’s life.

When does it start?

When you’ve not had your periods for a whole year, then in all probabilities, you have entered into menopause. And, once that commences, the time that follows is postmenopause.

What happens in postmenopause?

The hormone levels are low, and you’ll not have your periods anymore. As you progress in years, the symptoms will mellow down. Yet, some may still face side effects because of the low levels of hormones.

What are the symptoms of postmenopause?

Most symptoms that bothered you during the menopause transition phase will have eased or lessened in severity. However, in some women, the symptoms may last for a long. A friend of mine had frequent episodes of hot flashes in her late 40s. She was relieved of them in a year after her menopause.

Because of the low hormone levels, you will be susceptible to several health conditions in postmenopause. These include heart problems, osteoporosis, and weakened bones. That’s why it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet. Also, it is essential to get your basic parameters checked and go for cancer screenings (mainly breast and cervical).

What are the reasons for bleeding in postmenopause?

Some women bleed in postmenopause. It could either be a light brown or pinkish-gray spotting to heavy bleeding, just as it happens in the regular menstrual cycle. The vaginal lining often becomes thin and inflamed, which often results in bleeding.

However, postmenopausal bleeding might mean some severe conditions also. So it’s better to get yourself medically diagnosed.

FAQs

Q. What are the first signs which indicate that you are entering into the menopausal transition phase?

The first, and earliest sign is the irregular menstrual cycle. It could either be delayed, or some may have early periods. The pattern of bleeding changes as well. Some may experience heavy periods, while in a few, it could be extremely light.

Q, When do you know that you are in the late perimenopause phase?

If you go without bleeding for over 60 days, then that means that you have entered the late perimenopause phase.

Q, What changes will you see in your periods before or during menopause?

In some cycles, you may bleed a lot, while at times, the bleeding will be scanty. The duration could also fluctuate, being longer or shorter than usual.

Q. How long do hot flashes and night sweats last?

Hot flashes caused due to menopause do not last for more than 6-24 months. However, a new study provides a different set of numbers altogether. It’s got to say that the hot flashes may last for 7 years, or longer than that – 11 years

Q. How do you know you are in menopause?

If you do not have periods for a year and also have associated symptoms, talk to your doctor. He or she will confirm the same.

Q. Can you treat menopause?

No, since menopause is a natural process, it cannot be treated. However, the symptoms associated with menopause might need treatment, especially if they are aggravated. Maintaining a good quality of life may help you ease the symptoms.

Q. Does menopause affect sex life?

Sex life does get affected due to menopause. Women experiencing the symptoms often mention not getting aroused like before. They also aren’t as sensitive to physical contact as they were in their reproductive years. However, the intensity of having a reduced sex drive varies from one woman to the other.

Conclusion

Menopause and its stages don’t just involve physical changes but also mean emotional and psychological turmoil as well. While your body goes through a lot of changes, your stress hormones can be disrupted, leading to anxiety issues. Eating, exercising well, and staying fit may help you to a great extent to cope with menopause. My motto was to eat well and exercise regularly. In that way, I felt a lot better. It wasn’t as easy as I write. Yet, I finally overcame my apprehensions and led a quality life.

References:

  1. How Long Does Menopause Last?
  2. How Long Do Symptoms of Menopause Last?
  3. my.clevelandclinic.org
  4. How Long Do Menopause Symptoms Last?
  5. How Long Does Menopause Last on Average?
  6. How Long Does Menopause Last? Here’s What to Expect, According to Experts
  7. Stages and Duration: How Long Does Menopause Last?
  8. How long do menopause symptoms last?
  9. How Long Does Menopause Last?
  10. nia.nih.gov
  11. mountsinai.org
  12. clevelandclinic.org
  13. Premature and early menopause
  14. After the menopause
  15. After the menopause
  16. How Long Does Menopause Last?

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.