Hesperian Health Guides

The End of Menstrual Periods (Menopause)

In this chapter:

Anyone who has a menstrual cycle will go through menopause, which is when menstrual bleeding stops. Usually this happens in someone’s 40s or early 50s. It may happen fairly quickly over a year or so, or more slowly over several years. Some people go through menopause easily, others have more discomforts.

This is a time of emotional, physical, and social changes. You may feel a sense of relief because menopause means the end of periods. It also means that you cannot give birth any more. It is natural to feel sadness for this loss of possibility

  • Your menstrual cycle changes. Your period may shorten by 2 or 3 days, or it may last longer than usual, perhaps 2 to 3 weeks. You may not have your period for a few months, after which it may return with a heavier flow.
  • At times you suddenly may feel very hot or sweaty (called having “hot flashes”). This can wake you up at night.
  • Your vagina becomes smaller and less wet.
  • You may urinate more often.
  • Your desire for sexual activity may change.
  • You may have trouble sleeping.
  • You may feel sad, tearful, or irritable for no reason.

These signs happen because the ovaries stop making the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Signs will go away as your body gets used to less estrogen.

How you feel about the end of your menstrual bleeding may also depend on how your community treats older women. Are they respected and listened to, or ignored and valued less when they are no longer raising children?

What to do during menopause

an older woman walking Menopause is a normal part of life. Most women will be able to feel better by following some of the suggestions on the next page.

For people who menstruate, menopause marks the beginning of a new phase for their body. By paying attention to the changes in our physical and social needs, we can achieve good health as we age.

In the past, doctors recommended medicines containing estrogen and progesterone to relieve the most severe symptoms of menopause. This is called “Hormone Replacement Therapy” (HRT). Unfortunately, HRT has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and stroke. It is healthier to avoid using hormone medicines this way.

To feel better during menopause:

Notice how different things—foods, activities, where you sit—affect you as you age. Small changes can make a big difference.

a woman removing her jacket
  • Dress in loose clothes and layers that you can take off easily when you begin to sweat during a hot flash.

  • Drink cool water regularly.
a large X drawn through a plate of hot food, a steaming mug, and two hot peppers
  • If you have hot flashes more after eating hot or spicy foods or drinks, see what happens if you avoid those foods and drinks.
  • Avoid drinking too much coffee, black tea, or cola. They contain caffeine, which can make you feel tense and sleep poorly.
a large X drawn through a coffee pot, a teapot, and two cups
an older woman walking
  • Move every day in ways that make your heart beat faster. This can improve sleep problems and your mood. Walking every day helps keep bones strong.

  • Some yoga poses can help balance emotions. Try resting in a relaxing pose with support from a folded blanket or pillow
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a large X drawn through a beer bottle, a wine bottle, and a martini glass
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only small amounts. Alcohol can increase bleeding and hot flashes.
  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco. It can cause unusual bleeding and make problems with weak bones much worse
a woman refusing to take a cigarette offered to her
  • It may help to tell your family about the changes you are going through and how they make you feel or to talk with others going through menopause.

  • Ask a midwife or someone who has already gone through menopause about traditional remedies that might help.

This page was updated:22 Jan 2024