Pre/peri/post Menopause: What do these terms mean?

Terminology around menopause is confusing! Surveys have shown over 80% of women don't know the different phases of menopause or what different terms mean. We have written this article to bring some clarity and bring you menopause terms explained.

Broadly, there are 3 important phases of menopause: (1) peri-menopause, (2) menopause, (3) post-menopause. 

Menopause and pre-menopause explained

The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. This marks the beginning of post menopause. That’s right. We often talk about the menopause as a phase, and that’s okay too, but it’s important to understand the technical term so you can better communicate with your doctors.

The menopause is the first day of your last menstrual period. You can recognise when menopause has occurred only a year later when you have had 12 months without a period. But it is also common not to know the exact date of your menopause because you may be on oral contraceptives or HRT, which can affect bleeding.

The menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing enough oestrogen and progesterone to cause a monthly bleed. It marks the time when women can no longer get naturally pregnant. For most women, the last period is around the age of 51 but can occur earlier or later.

The time from puberty until menopause is known as pre-menopause.

Perimenopause 

When the media writes about ‘menopause’, for example describing the symptoms associated with it, they are often referring to perimenopause. Confusing, right?!

Perimenopause literally means ‘around the menopause,’ and typically starts in your 40s. It is the time when signs and symptoms of falling oestrogen levels start to manifest; for example, irregular periods, or hot flushes.

Perimenopause ends 12 months after your final menstrual bleed. For over half of women, the perimenopause stage lasts for over 7 years – but that doesn’t mean you have to endure through symptoms for all that time. The most important thing to know is this happens to all women, so you are not alone and services such as the NHS and Bia are here to help.

You can find a list of common menopause symptoms here.

Post-menopause

This is the time from your final menstrual period onwards. A time free of periods and eventually not needing to worry about contraception. Though contraception is still recommended in the years after menstrual bleeding stops. If in doubt, ask your GP about whether or not you should be taking contraception.

Post-menopause is a wonderful opportunity to prepare for what many women report as their most enjoyable years. This is a time when caring for your health and well-being should be a priority. Eating well, exercising regularly (including your pelvic floor), reducing stress and alcohol, are important for any stage of life, and are especially important during peri- and post-menopause.