Menopause is a normal biological process, not a disease or an illness. It's not a single event. Rather, it's a health milestone that marks the transition between two phases of a woman's life. Menopause occurs when a woman ceases menstruating (having periods), although some women may experience menopausal symptoms before their period stops completely. "It should be seen as an opportunity for a reassessment of your total health status," says Elissa Gretz-Friedman, MD, Medical Director of Obstetrics/Gynecology Faculty Practice Associates.

Most women have their final menstrual cycle around age 50. You are considered "post menopausal" when you have not had a period for 12 months (or more). Perimenopause is the five-year period preceding your last period and is marked by a decrease and fluctuation of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. During this time, many women experience irregular menstrual cycles and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes or insomnia.

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