Perimenopause vs. Menopause: When Ovaries Collide

By CMCarr

The description I was given of perimenopause listed it as a time of confusion and chaos and I started laughing. I imagined a chorus of baffled ovaries bumping into each other. There are approximately 1 billion perimenopausal women in the world today, yet despite the alleged chaos and confusion we’re able to manage our homes, businesses and a country here and there.

Perimenopause refers to when a woman’s body gradually produces less estrogen, possibly leading to hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, joint pain and other symptoms—and this can begin in our 30s and extend into our 60s. Or a woman may have no symptoms at all.

Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month and a woman hasn’t had a menstrual cycle for 12 months, although this time period (pun intended) is based on an average sampling of women. (One woman went two years without a period, then began a cycle again.)

The average age for menopause in the US, UK and Brazil is 51. In South Africa and China the average age is 48. In India the average age is 44, although that is rising.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), Premature menopause, and Early menopause

Premature ovarian failure (POF) is the loss of ovarian function in women under the age of 40. Women with POF do not ovulate each month. Approximately 5% of women are affected by premature ovarian failure (POF), including teenagers. Another term for POF is Premature Menopause.

Early menopause is menopause before the age of 45 (in the US and the UK). Women may go through Premature Menopause due to an autoimmune disorder, genetics, radiation or chemotherapy treatment, a hysterectomy with both ovaries removed, thyroid dysfunction,Turner syndrome, a viral infection, inadequate gondaotropin secretion or action, or an eating disorder.

The only difference between Early menopause and Premature menopause is the age at which it happens. Sometimes there is no known reason why a woman goes through Early or Premature Menopause.

Post Menopause are the years after menopause, when symptoms such as hot flashes (or hot flushes, as known in the UK) generally cease. However, some women continue to have symptoms for years following menopause.

In other words, every woman’s experience is different, and life has moments of confusion and chaos regardless of what our ovaries are doing.