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cover of Midlife Transitions

Midlife Transitions:
A Guide to Approaching Menopause

Researched and written by Vicki Meade

Patient education pamphlet published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. March 1997, Washington, DC

Excerpt

Midlife is often called "the prime of life," and research suggests it really is. At midlife, you are likely to be healthy and productive. By this stage, you've probably met goals set in your youth and are thinking about where to go next in your life. However, myths about middle age abound. Some people think of it as a dreary stage when the best that life has to offer is over. Nothing is further from the truth.

What is true is that midlife is a busy time, full of changes. Maybe your children are older-even living on their own-giving you free time you haven't had in years. You may switch to a new career, go back to school, or take up new hobbies.

Your body changes at midlife, too. Around your mid-40s, you enter a transition phase called perimenopause. It is a time of gradual change leading up to and following menopause. In general, perimenopause extends from age 45 to 55, although the timing varies among women. During this time, the ovaries produce less of the hormone estrogen. Other changes occur in your body, as well. Because these changes happen slowly over time, you may not be aware of them.

Menopause is sometimes called "the change of life." It marks the end of menstrual periods and of your childbearing years. On average, the age at which American women have their last menstrual period is 51.