Before you enter the three stages of menopause, you are in premenopause — literally, "before menopause." (Premenopausal women show no symptoms of menopause: periods are normal and regular, and hormone levels are steady.) The first of the three stages of menopause is perimenopause, then menopause, and, finally, postmenopause:

  • Perimenopause: Literally, "around menopause." The years before menopause when hormones fluctuate and periods are irregular. Perimenopause can last up to 10 years before periods stop, but normally the symptoms last only four or five years.

  • Menopause: Technically, menopause begins a year after the last menstrual period and indicates the end of your reproductive ability.

    Surgical menopause or induced menopause occurs when a woman's ovaries are surgically removed.

    Premature menopause occurs when you experience menopause at an unusually early age (like in your thirties). Premature menopause leaves you at risk of osteoporosis and higher cholesterol fairly early in life.

  • Postmenopause: The years after menopause when the ovaries are no longer functioning. This is the time when health conditions associated with long periods of low estrogen (osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease) are your top concern.

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