The stages of menopause are perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause, notes WebMD. The menopause stage is typically the shortest stage, lasting only about a year, while the period before, known as perimenopause, can last several years.
Menopause occurs as part of the aging process in women. It marks the end of her reproductive period, as she stops menstruating. A woman must not have had a period for 12 months to be considered menopausal. Menopause typically doesn't occur until after a woman turns 40. When a woman experiences menopause earlier than age 40, it's called premature menopause. This condition can happen after a hysterectomy or damage to the ovaries.
Perimenopause occurs several years before menopause as a result of the ovaries creating less estrogen. Perimenopause can manifest in several symptoms, but not all of them need to be present for a woman to be considered as perimenopausal. Common symptoms include hot flashes, fatigue, irregular menstrual cycles and a lower sex drive. Perimenopause can be diagnosed by a doctor by listening to symptoms and by performing a blood test to check hormone levels.
The postmenopause stage occurs after a woman has not had her menstrual cycle for over 12 months. At this time, a doctor can perform a blood test to measure follicle stimulating hormones. These hormones rise as the ovaries begin to shut down. Many menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, decrease during this time.