Menopause is medically defined as the last menstrual period of a woman's reproductive life, generally assumed to have occurred when she has gone 12 consecutive months without a period. Menopause may also be defined as when both ovaries have been surgically removed, as in a hysterectomy, or they have been damaged to the point that they no longer function. Menopause may bring on certain unpleasant side effects, including hot flashes and night sweats.
The first sign of the onset of the change of life in a woman's reproductive life cycle is called perimenopause, which can occur from the mid-30s to the late 50s, and beyond.
Perimenopause typically lasts six years. It is marked by the beginning of the first change in the menstrual cycle and extends to one year after the final menstrual period.
Menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats, may be greatly affected by such factors as lifestyle, diet, family history and stress.
Natural menopause, also known as spontaneous menopause, occurs on average at age 51.
There is no definitive or even normal time when menopausal symptoms cease. Most women will experience hot flashes and/or night sweats for five to six years after menopause, but it is not uncommon for women to continue to have these symptoms well into their 70s.