Updated 21 July 2014

The menopause dictionary

What does the word menopause imply? And climacteric? And peri-menopause? Read these quick explanations.


Climacteric: In practice, this is often used as a synonym for menopause. It’s an embracing term referring to the transition from your reproductive phase into your postmenopausal years. It is marked by diminishing ovarian function. 

Perimenopause: Perimenopause, premenopause or menopause transition all refer to the time leading up to menopause. The perimenopause starts when hormonal and menstrual changes or other symptoms of approaching menopause begin occurring. This stage lasts until at least one year after the final menstrual period. Your final menstrual period can only be determined retrospectively.

On average, premenopause begins in the mid-40s and lasts until menopause, which occurs on average at about age 51. It can occur as early as in your 30s and, rarely, as late as in your 60s. Pre- and perimenopause can last for as little as two years or as long as eight, but normally occurs over five to seven years between ages of 45 and 55. Genetics is important in determining the age at which you experience menopause. Women who smoke start their menopause about two years earlier than nonsmokers.

Menopause: The term menopause actually refers to a single event in your perimenopause. The word menopause is derived from the Greek words “men”, which means month, and the word “pausis”, which means cessation. It literally means the last menstruation. Menopause itself is only one day in a woman's life after she has not had a menstrual period for a year at the time of the climacteric. As such, the beginning of that time span can only be calculated retrospectively after you have not menstruated for 12 consecutive months.

Natural menopause occurs at an average age of 48 - 55.

Premature menopause: This occurs when you reach spontaneous/natural or induced menopause at 40 years or younger . Also known as premature ovarian failure (POF). Possible reasons include:

Genetic factors which means an abnormality in her genes carrying the programmes of her inheritance.

  • Autoimmune disorders. These are diseases whereby antibodies are developed against the body’s own tissues or cells (for example Myasthenia gravis which is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease)
  • In cases of induced, premature or early menopause, there is a greater risk of health problems such as heart disease and osteoporosis since a longer time is spent without the protective effects of oestrogens.

Induced menopause: the cessation of menstruation due to the removal of both ovaries (with or without removal of the uterus), or the inhibition of normal ovarian function by medication given by the doctor. 

Postmenopause: This is the time after the menopause. The absence of oestrogen has an enormous impact on your body. Various organs are affected over the short, medium and long term.  Read about these affects on the heart, skeletal bones, brain, skin and other organs in the section "The effect of menopause on the body".

Early postmenopause: The first five years after cessation of your menstrual period.  If you need hormone therapy, it should be inititated as soon as possible after entering the menopause and definitely after early menopause.


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