We all know that menopause is a process rather than an occurrence (expect perhaps in the case of surgical menopause) and for women undergoing this life altering process the question, how long does menopause last, is a natural one.
How long does menopause last, is a question whose answer depends upon each individual woman, her physical constitution, her genetic predisposition and her mental makeup. Each woman may have a very different tale to tell about her experiences with menopause.
The broad answer to how long does menopause last is that it could be anything between 2 and 10 years.
For some women Perimenopause or the menopause transition years can start as early as 35 years of age, though many women may become aware of this only in their forties or many years after the first symptoms start to appear.
The start of Perimenopause is said to be when the first irregularities in the monthly period start.
Menopause is said to be complete when a woman goes 12 full months without having had a period.
There is no single answer to how long menopause lasts and equally there is no normal or healthy answer, because ‘normal’ for one woman may mean that she never experiences a single hot flash and for another woman, ‘normal’ may mean that she continues having hot flashes well into her 60’s!
The duration as well as the severity of menopause signs and symptoms varies hugely among different women and this will depend also upon general health and fitness, the cultural perspective of a woman, her lifestyle and diet and her stress levels.
A good predictor for how long does menopause last is to look at your own immediate family – mother, sister, aunts, grandmothers.
Family history and genetics or inherited traits are probably one of the biggest determining factors for how long and how severely a woman may experience menopause, however on an average, women undergo menopause at about 51 years of age (again, earlier or later may be perfectly normal for a given woman as well.
To understand how long does menopause last, it is important to understand the physiology of menopause.
As a woman ages, her ovaries do not produce the levels of hormones that they did, which is what causes a gradual decline in fertility and also result in other symptoms that we know of as being the symptoms of menopause – hot flashes, depression, vaginal dryness, changes in body hair, weight changes, low energy levels and so on.
The hormones may be produced by the ovaries in smaller quantities over a period of time, or they may be irregularly produced, which is what gives rise to the symptoms as well as irregular periods.
Regardless of how long does menopause last, what is important is that for many women this is very difficult phase of life, mentally and physically; not something to be dismissed as “all in the mind”. It should be recognized that the symptoms of menopause can be very real; it can be a long and difficult phase that may require help and even medical intervention.