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The menopause is a natural event for all women; the ovaries no longer produce estrogen and progesterone. This can be due to natural aging (usual age of onset is 51 years), or through chemotherapy and surgery on the ovaries. The changing balance of the hormones in a women's body is thought to result in the symptoms on the menopause; estrogen and progesterone fall while levels of FSH and LH rise.
Perimenopause is the stage from the beginning of menopausal symptoms to the postmenopause.
Postmenopause is the time following the last period, and is usually defined as more than 12 months with no periods in someone with intact ovaries, or immediately following surgery if the ovaries have been removed.
As the roles of the reproductive hormones are better defined, the menopause (the decline in levels of these hormones) is becoming a more significant indicator of risk of various diseases.
Source; Adapted from Menopause Matters (.co.uk)