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Talking about the menopause: symptoms, support and the role of exercise
Talking about the menopause: symptoms, support and the role of exercise

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6 Looking closer: the phases of the menopause

‘Menopause’ tends to be used fairly loosely, as a term to describe the entire process from the beginning of the signs of menopause to when the symptoms recede. While the menopause is when the periods stop there are four distinct stages as shown in Box 2.

Box 2 Stages of the menopause

  • Pre-menopause: the time span from puberty before any menopausal symptoms occur.
  • Perimenopause: when menopausal symptoms due to hormonal changes are experienced but periods are still present, although they may be irregular or changing in nature.
  • Menopause: when a person has not had a period for 12 consecutive months.
  • Post-menopause: the stage after the period has been absent for 12 months.
(Adapted from Newson, 2023)

As shown in Box 2, when 12 months have elapsed since the last menstrual period, an individual is considered to be in menopause. After this time, they are post-menopausal (Hillard et al., 2017), and they will be in post-menopause until death. Experience of symptoms in the post-menopause phase can last for anything from a couple of years up to much longer, and there seems to be little agreement on this. According to Newson (2019), the average length of the menopause is about four years after the last period, while one in ten women can experience symptoms for up to 12 years.