Menopause is defined as occurring 12 months after one's last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles, and essentially fertility. Although the average age of menopause in the United States is 51, it can occur at anytime in a woman's life, as some women can be affected by premature menopause and no two women are alike in their reproductive lifespan.

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The transition from regular menstrual cycles to menopause is known as the perimenopausal state, in which women can experience irregular cycles (both in length and flow), as well as symptoms such as hot flashes, emotional lability, including anxiety, decreased energy, feelings of sadness and sleep disruption.

Based on data from many long-term studies, a staging system was developed to help outline the different transition periods through the late reproductive years. This staging system called the Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop (STRAW) includes definitions for the late reproductive years, the menopausal transition, perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. This system is helpful for patients in assessing their existing fertility potential, need for hormonal therapy and supplementation, as well as the need for contraception.

Many effective treatments are available for women who experience symptoms that have an effect on their quality of life. These treatments range from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy and patients interested in learning about these options should consult a physician.