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Menopause, the end of a woman’s monthly ovulation and monthly menstrual periods, occurs on average at about the age of 51. This is an average number, which doesn’t take into account great variance.

There are some signs and symptoms you may be beginning menopause, in addition to medical tests that can help you decide if this change of life is on its way.

Periods may become heavier or lighter.When beginning menopause, women may also note slight changes to premenstrual symptoms. Cramping or heavier bleeding may occur, headaches are common, and mood swings or depression may be present not only during or before your period, but also during the rest of the month. Vaginal dryness may occur more readily, making intercourse uncomfortable without added lubrication.

As true menopause nears, other symptoms do start to emerge. Most recognizable of these is the hot flash, a truly uncomfortable experience that can cause you to flush, sweat profusely, or suddenly simply feel as if you’ve stepped into the Sahara, even if it’s below freezing outside. Hot flashes are part of perimenopause and can continue for several years after menopause has occurred.

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