For women yet to experience menopause, it’s a common misconception that the end of menstruation is a transition with a clear start and finish time. As the 1 billion women who will be more than 50 in 2020 will attest, along with variations in menopause symptoms, the length of menopause itself is also highly individual.
The stages of menopause
To understand how long menopause lasts, we need to understand first that there are three stages of menopause: pre-menopause or perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. The process leading up to menopause, the pre-menopause, or perimenopause, can start anywhere from a matter of months to up to 10 years before your periods actually stop.
Pre-menopause: recognizing the symptoms
Defined as beginning with the first hormonal disruptions, symptoms you are entering pre-menopause can be hot flashes, irregular periods – which can occur more frequently at first, then missed periods or longer or shorter periods plus changes in the amount of menstrual flow(1). Other symptoms that pre-menopause is beginning include tiredness, disrupted sleep and mood swings. It’s important to remember that, if taking the contraceptive pill, this transitional stage can go unnoticed. The average duration of this pre-menopause stage is five years.
Menopause and post-menopause: defined
In this pre-menopause stage of erratic periods, sometimes months can go by without one. Women think menopause has happened. However, it’s not until a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without having a period that she is considered as in menopause. From this moment onwards, a full year after your last period, you are considered to be in post-menopause.
Menopause’s age range: 45 to 55 years-old
Since the age at which women begin pre-menopause varies, along with the actual duration of this pre-stage itself, the age range for menopause is anywhere between 45 to 55 years old. If a woman experiences menopause before the age of 40, it is considered premature menopause, before turning 45, it’s considered early menopause and then after 55 is considered to late menopause. Taking premature, early and late menopauses into account, the average age is 51. From this stage considered to be in post-menopause, menopausal symptoms for some women can continue an estimated 4 years after their final period (2). With most of the changes to your body behind you, post-menopause is a period of adjustment as things settle down physically and emotionally.
As our body takes the wild hormonal ride through the three stages of menopause, our skin sees the impact. The loss of Estrogen, together with the skin aging process results in declining levels of collagen and elastin synthesis, but that’s not the whole story. Another natural hormone, produced by the body, goes into decline at menopause, DHEA.
DHEA Loss at menopause
Identified by Vichy as key in 38 skin youth processes, the DHEA drop is behind some of the most visible changes in skin at menopause. Skin suffers a progressive thinning out, becoming in dermatological terms: papyrus – literally paper-like. At the same time, sebum production declines, so your skin is now less naturally nourished from its own moisturizing substance and inevitably gets drier. Thinner, drier less firm and luminous, at menopause it may seem that skin aging, until now manageable, goes into overdrive. Now is the time to upgrade your routine to include intense nutritive creams, morning and night. Look for skincare formulated specifically for menopause, that integrates anti-aging actives to help skin compensate for this loss of DHEA. Actives that can increase epidermal thickness to keep skin plumper and firmer for longer, however long your menopause lasts.