How long is the menopausal transition?

How is perimenopause defined?

Your cycle is beginning to become abnormal, how long will it take for your menses to stop?

The period of time between the beginning of menstrual changes and complete cessation of bleeding is called the menopausal transition. It is a time of irregular bleeding, unpredictable cycles, and often hot flashes and mood changes. Many women would like to know what to expect, and often the timing is very difficult to predict.

The SWAN Study (Study of Women's Health Across the Nation) used menstrual calendar data to analyze a number of factors and how they influence the timing of onset and duration of the menopausal transition.

Here are some of the trends. The earlier a woman begins the transition, the longer it will take, with an average range of 4-10 years. Beginning the transition earlier was related to a longer duration of hot flashes. Smoking was associated with an earlier transition and a shorter duration. African Americans trended toward longer transitions, while women who were overweight often started to transition at a later age. Older age at the onset of the menopausal transition often suggested a shorter duration, with an average of 3-6 years.

Cycle length was related to age at transition. Women with longer cycle length on average trended toward beginning the transition later, as women with shorter cycles transitioned earlier.

Since women who begin the perimenopause at a younger age take longer to transition, and may have more vasomotor symptoms, it makes sense to treat these women for bothersome symptoms. If irregular bleeding is a problem, oral contraceptives provide hormonal and cycle control, as well as contraception, since irregular cycles do not translate into lack of fertility.

Menopause, Volume 24, Number 2, February 2017

Duration of the menopausal transition is longer in women with young age at onset: the multiethnic Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation