Menopause is defined by having 12 consecutive months with no period. But prior to this, the body can spend any time between 4 and 10 years preparing itself.
This is known as the perimenopausal stage.
Just as with menstruation, there’s no set age to start menopause.
The average starting age for the perimenopausal stage is 46, but it can range from 34 to 54. In some cases, premature menopause can start at a younger age.
On average, the final menstrual period takes place around the age of 51 but this can fluctuate between 40 and 60.
During this time, the body reacts in certain ways because of hormonal changes, which can result in symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbance, changes to your sex drive, weight gain and mood changes.
Learning how to recognise these signs and gain control over them can help this transition be less disruptive to your life.
Perhaps the best-known side effect of the perimenopausal stage are hot flashes, which can occur up to several times a day.
There are many ways to mitigate this reaction, such as by making changes to your diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking and dressing in comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
Using a period tracker to monitor when you had your last period can go a long way in helping you to feel that you have more control of this stage in your life.
Don’t be afraid to talk to friends and family about how you are feeling.
Taking additional care of yourself, your diet and paying attention to your body’s needs can contribute a long way towards a healthy and balanced menopause.