Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period. It occurs when there has been a change in a woman's reproductive hormones and her ovaries no longer release any eggs. Once a woman reaches menopause, she can no longer become pregnant.
Most women reach menopause between 45-55 years of age. The average age for women in Australia to reach menopause is 51-52 years.
Some women will have a later menopause – at up to 60 years of age, especially if there is a family history of late menopause – while some women will have an earlier than expected menopause, as a result of cancer treatment, surgery or unknown causes.
During the lead-up to menopause, and the menopause transition, symptoms such as menstrual irregularities, hot flushes and anxiety are common.
The lead-up to menopause is called perimenopause. Perimenopause typically starts in a woman’s 40s, but can occur during a woman's 30s. Symptoms can come in waves, increasing and decreasing for months at a time. Though 4-6 years is the average length for most women’s perimenopause, it can be as short as a year, or last more than 10 years.
For every woman, the experience of perimenopause and menopause is different. About 20% of women will have no menopausal symptoms, 20% will have severe symptoms and the remainder will have mild to moderate symptoms.