It's normal for perimenopause and menopause to be a time of ups and downs, physically and — for some — emotionally. If you think you might be experiencing perimenopause or menopause, you may feel a bit overwhelmed and you may have questions. Know that you aren’t alone.

Learning about this stage of life can help you determine if you’re experiencing perimenopause or menopause, and it can help you know when it might be time to call a doctor or nurse practitioner.

What is menopause?

Menopause is marked by the lack of menstruation for 12 months in a row. The average age for this to happen is 52 years old, although many women reach menopause in their 40s or even later in their 50s. It’s rarely an abrupt change and women can experience perimenopause for eight to 10 years before they are truly menopausal.

Symptoms of perimenopause can include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles, with cycles being shorter or longer and with a varying flow
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness and pain during sexual intercourse
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Possible weight gain

Women can experience all or none of these symptoms during perimenopause.

Symptoms of menopause can include:

  • Some or all of the perimenopause symptoms listed above
  • Possible “brain fog” and a decreased ability to recall words
  • No menstrual cycle for 12 months

Causes of menopause

Menopause is usually the natural result of aging and declined production of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries, but other causes can include:

  • Hysterectomy with removal of both ovaries
  • Removal of the ovaries without hysterectomy
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation for cancer treatment
  • Ovarian insufficiency, known as premature menopause, which usually occurs at over 40 years of age

The absence of menstruation for an entire year confirms menopause. Hormone levels are not helpful except in rare cases.

Treatment options for menopause

With guidance from a care provider, the following treatment options can help ease uncomfortable menopause symptoms:

  • Hormone therapy, which could include medication that contains female hormones
  • Non-hormonal treatment, which regulate the brain’s temperature control center
  • Contraceptive pills, which can be used in perimenopause for select individuals
  • Certain antidepressant medications, which can work to manage the brain’s temperature control center
  • Medication commonly used for chronic pain
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Mental health and emotional wellness support

Next steps for patient

If you’d like to meet with a provider and find the best care options, it’s time to reach out to Main Line Health. Schedule a visit with a specialist today.

Call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or request an appointment online.

Women’s health care at Main Line Health

Our specialists provide the latest technological advancements with expertise and compassion—working to find the best possible treatment while prioritizing your comfort and peace of mind throughout the care journey.

At Main Line Health, you’ll have access to:

  • Excellence in gynecological care — including treatment for serious gynecological issues, at locations that are close to home and easy to access.
  • Physicians near you — who provide a full range of general and specialized gynecologic services for women, from yearly well-woman exams and cancer screenings to highly specialized procedures — including advanced laparoscopic, hysteroscopic and robotic approaches.
  • Main Line Health's Philadelphia area hospitals — Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital offer comprehensive women's health services to meet your needs and those of your family. Our healthcare experts are uniquely qualified to address the special concerns of women.
  • Advanced gynecology program — provides patients with collaborative, advanced treatments for complex benign gynecologic conditions. Our multidisciplinary team can meet your individual care needs through comprehensive evaluation and developing personalized treatment plans.