Perimenopause is the first, transitional stage in the process with an average length of 4 years. Though for some women, this may begin 8-10 years before menopause.
During this stage, the ovaries make less estrogen, menstrual cycles start to change (becoming irregular and then stopping) and you may experience physical changes. Some common side effects are breast tenderness, worsening PMS and irregular/skipping periods.
Menopause is when a woman no longer has menstrual periods for at least 12 months, which usually occurs for women in the late 40s to early 50s. At this point, ovaries are no longer producing high levels of hormones.
During this time, some common symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, sleeping problems, viginal dryness, urinary urgency, emotional changes (irritability, mood swings, depression), dry skin and lack of sexual desire.
Other troublesome symptoms of menopause can be called "senior moments" or "bad hair days", where our brains might not seem to work as well. Some believe this can be magnified by the lack of hormones.