Menopause is the transitional period in a woman's life when her ovaries start producing less of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopause is declared when a woman ceases to have a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, marking the end of her reproductive years. A woman who has her ovaries surgically removed immediately enters menopause.
Natural menopause is a gradual process, beginning with perimenopause, or premenopause, usually starting in a woman's 40s or even 30s. Perimenopause can last up to 10 years, as the menstrual cycle tapers off and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings may begin.
Other physical and psychological changes that may occur throughout menopause and the postmenopausal years include irregular heartbeat, headaches, insomnia, irritability, depression, and anxiety, along with cognitive symptoms like forgetfulness. Menopause is also associated with problems such as vaginal dryness, painful sexual intercourse, urine leakage, and joint pain.