The menopause transition can be mysterious. How prepared are you for menopause? Find out by taking this quiz!
You know you’ve reached “natural” menopause when:
During the time leading up to menopause, your periods may become irregular and the heaviness of your flow may change, but that phase, which can last for up to 10 years, is called perimenopause. It isn’t until you don’t menstruate for an entire year that you reach natural menopause. In contrast, when a woman has her ovaries surgically removed during her menstruating years, she’ll go into “surgical menopause”—immediately.
Once you stop having regular periods, you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant.
Until you reach menopause, even if your periods are irregular, spaced far apart or very light, you still may be occasionally ovulating. And if do ovulate, you can get pregnant. So until you’ve had no periods for a full year, use birth control when you have sexual intercourse—unless you’re open to the idea of pushing a stroller soon!
The average age at which menopause begins is:
Even though the average lifespan has been inching up steadily and women are living much longer than they used to, the age at which menopause typically occurs has not been trending up. It’s still 51. When a woman enters menopause before age 46, it’s called early menopause. Just 1% of women enter menopause before age 40, which is called premature menopause.
The best predictor of when you’ll go into menopause is:
While many factors determine the age at which you’ll go into menopause, the biggest predictor is how old your mother was when she went into menopause. It’s true that the treatment for some medical conditions, such as endometriosis, can affect the ovaries and hasten menopause timing regardless of family history. But for the vast majority of women, the old adage remains particularly true for menopause: Your mother should know.
The percentage of women who never get menopausal hot flashes is:
A cool 27% of women never have to deal with hot flashes, those sudden rushes of heat and often perspiration. For other women, hot flashes can occur occasionally—or as frequently as every hour.
“Super flashers” are women who get hot flashes before and as long as 15 years after menopause. The percentage of women who are super flashes is:
An unlucky 26% of women are super flashers. They tend to have early-onset hot flashes, which begin five or 10 years before their last periods and last for up to 10 years after their last period.
As you enter into menopause, you’re sure to gain weight.
It’s true that many women do gain weight in the transition to menopause, but it’s not universal. Some women don’t gain even a pound when they stop having periods. As estrogen levels decline, however, body fat distribution does often shift from the hips to the belly. So healthy eating and regular exercise are more important now than ever. But weight gain isn’t inevitable.
If you smoke, you’ll probably go into menopause earlier than average.
Smoking can bring on early-onset menopause. The chemicals in the smoke contain many substances that are toxic to the ovaries.
Which of these will bring on menopause right away?
If you have surgical removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy)—not one of the choices above—you’ll go into menopause right away. Ectopic pregnancy, which happens when an embryo implants in tissue outside the uterus, doesn’t affect menopause at all. Nor does removal of a single ovary or a hysterectomy cause you to go into menopause right away, although they are associated with an earlier-than-average onset of menopause.
If you use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopause symptoms, you’ll have to keep taking hormones for the rest of your life.
HRT is not a lifetime commitment. If you start, though, it’s a good idea to evaluate at least every five years whether you should stay on it. There are two reasons for that—new data about the safety and effectiveness of hormone therapy may emerge…and your own health status may change.
Learn more about menopause and your life in Bottom Line’s Menopause Center.