Menopause terms explained

Menopause: This is when a person stops having periods. To have reached menopause, periods must have stopped for 12 months. The average age for menopause is 51.

Early menopause: This is when a person’s period stops before the age of 45. It can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Naturally as the ovaries stop making hormones
  • Secondary to cancer treatments like radiotherapy or chemotherapy
  • After surgical removal of both ovaries.

When early menopause occurs, this change is permanent. Pregnancy cannot occur naturally.

Perimenopause: This is the transitional phase before menopause. During this time, the ovaries start shutting down. This results in fluctuating levels of the hormone estrogen. Symptoms during this time include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy periods
  • Hot flushes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Mood symptoms

Premenopause: This is when a person has no symptoms of perimenopause but hormonal changes have started to occur.

Premature ovarian insufficiency: This is also referred to as premature ovarian failure. It occurs when the ovaries stop working properly before the age of 40. The ovaries no longer produce the normal amounts of oestrogen, which means eggs are not produced monthly, periods stop or become irregular and there may be symptoms of menopause.

Comparing early menopause and premature ovarian insufficiency