I have helped thousands of women during their menopause journeys. I cannot think of a single patient who didnt ask me, at some point during their meno-journey, how long menopause would last.
It is not possible to know when the end of menopause will occur, given the current level of research into menopause. When I am asked about the end of menopause symptoms, my response is to
- provide them with information about the stages of the entire menopause process. Those stages are early menopause transition, late menopause transition, early postmenopause and late postmenopause
- help them manage their expectations as they progress through the menopause stages
Stages of menopause and menopause symptoms
During the early and late menopause transition stages (perimenopause), you can expect to experience any of the symptoms of menopause.
During the early postmenopause stage, you can expect to continue to experience most of the symptoms you experienced in the two earlier stages. Towards the end of early postmenopause, your hormone levels will begin to stabilize and many of the symptoms you had been experiencing will reduce or even stop.
During late postmenopause, the predominant symptoms experienced by many women are hot flashes/night sweats, vaginal atrophy, and joint pain.
The cause of vaginal atrophy is low levels of estrogen. Vaginal atrophy progressively worsens as you age, unless you treat it with some form of estrogen therapy. Joint pain is caused by inflammation in and around the joint. Low levels of estrogen, during postmenopause, exacerbates joint pain because estrogen fights inflammation. Estrogen therapy helps to reduce joint pain.
The cause of hot flashes is not certain, but it is thought to be related to falling levels of estrogen during early and late menopause transition and low levels of estrogen during postmenopause stages. The drop in estrogen confuses the hypothalamus — which is sometimes referred to as the body’s “thermostat” — and makes it read “too hot.” The hypothalamus apparently senses that your body is too hot, even when it is not, and tells the body to release the excess heat (hot flash).
When can you expect an end to hot flashes?
Just as in perimenopause, the prevalence, frequency, severity and duration of postmenopause hot flashes vary considerably.
One study of more than 10,000 postmenopausal women was conducted to learn more about postmenopause hot flashes. The study collected information from these women for 3.5 years. The researchers found the following
- 89% of the women experienced hot flashes/night sweats during the 3.5 years
- more women had hot flushes (86%) than night sweats (78%)
- the frequency of hot flashes/night sweats was 33.5 per week
Another study that followed 436 menopausal women from 1995 – 2009 (thirteen years) shed more light on postmenopause hot flashes. All of the women were between the ages of 35-47 in 1995. The findings of this study were as follows
- the median duration of moderate to severe hot flushes was 10.2 years
- women whose moderate to severe hot flashes commenced in the early menopause transition stage had a median duration of 7.35 years
- women whose moderate to severe hot flashes commenced in the late menopause transition to early postmenopause stage had a median duration of 3.84 years
- The most common ages at onset of moderate to severe hot flashes were 45–49 years. For this group, the median duration was 8.1 years
Bottom line: The earlier you begin to have hot flashes during the menopause transition stages, the longer you can expect them to continue during postmenopause.
Managing your expectations about the end of menopause symptoms
Managing your expectations, concerning the end of menopause symptoms, creates breathing room for your experiences. It allows you to live more calmly, with less stress, disappointment and upset.
I am reminded of a true story concerning American POWs, who were held captive by the North Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war.
The most senior POW was an American admiral. He noticed that many of the POWs, subordinate to him, became distraught as a result of setting specific dates by when they expected to return home to the US. When those dates passed, and they remained in captivity, he noticed that they became anguished and frantic…almost to the point of hysteria.
The admiral counselled POWS to keep the thought firmly in their minds that they WILL be returning home….but not to set a date in their minds (over which they had no control) of when it will happen.
The same applies to the end of menopause symptoms for you. Know that they WILL end….you just dont know when.