Hesperian Health Guides
Menopause: The End of Menstruation
Women usually stop menstruating around age 50. Before menstruation stops completely, a woman’s periods can become very irregular. A woman may go months between menstrual periods. Bleeding can become lighter or heavier. For some women, other noticeable signs of menopause include changes in mood, sleep problems, and hot flashes that result from changing hormones inside the woman’s body. These can be uncomfortable or upsetting, but for many women they lessen or go away within a few years.
The vagina gets dryer and smaller during menopause. Use a water-based lubricant like saliva or K-Y Jelly to make sex more comfortable and to avoid the small tears that can happen when the vagina is dry during sex. Do not use skin creams or oils in the vagina because these can cause irritation.
Along with an end to bleeding, women stop releasing eggs during menopause, and so eventually can no longer become pregnant. But for as long as a year after bleeding stops, the body may still release eggs and a woman might still become pregnant months after menstruation stops.
Although in some countries women mourn the end of their body’s ability to have children, many cultures see menopause as a transition when “wise women” become respected elders in the community.