Stages of menopause

  • Pre-menopause is the time before menopause when a woman has regular monthly menstrual cycles (‘periods’). During pre-menopause, the ovaries release an egg each month. If a woman doesn’t become pregnant, the lining of the womb breaks down, leading to monthly menstruation (‘periods’). During pre-menopause, the ovaries produce three main hormones: oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
  • Peri-menopause is the time when menopausal symptoms start (such as hot flushes and irregular periods), leading up to the time of menopause. During peri-menopause, menstrual periods become irregular. The duration of peri-menopause varies in individual women. Hormone levels rise and fall during peri-menopause. This can affect many parts of the body, including the uterus (womb), vagina, breast, bone, bladder, brain, and skin. The changes in hormone levels may affect both physical and emotional wellbeing.
  • Menopause is the final menstrual period. This occurs when a woman’s ovaries run out of eggs. At menopause, the type and level of hormones produced by the body changes.
  • Post-menopause is the 12 months following the final menstrual period. The body produces less oestrogen and usually progesterone production stops.

Testosterone levels fall slowly from the mid 20’s onwards but can drop suddenly in women who have their ovaries removed before they have reached menopause.