For a female, it’s always something. First, it’s starting your period. Then it’s managing your periods, juggling birth control, and potentially trying to get pregnant. After you have babies, you may have a few good years before you slide into menopause, where you are greeted by hot flashes, painful vaginal dryness and brain fog. So you have that going for you.

Welcome to your menopause

Menopause is a natural state brought on by hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s midlife. The ovaries stop producing hormones such as progesterone and estrogen, and monthly periods cease. This process usually begins around age 51 on average, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it can happen as early as 45 or even much later. A lot depends on the individual.

Perimenopause, the time when menopausal symptoms first begin, occurs about four years before a woman’s final period. Women in perimenopause may have longer or shorter menstrual cycles, or even skip a month on occasion. Women who have ceased menstruating for a period of one year are considered to be in menopause, which brings an end to a woman’s ability to conceive children.

Not always an age