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The A to Z of menopause: 14 words you should know if you’re in the transition

Renee Lunder
By Renee Lunder
Health writer

The A to Z of menopause: 14 words you should know if you’re in the transition

When you first start reading about menopause, you’ll probably encounter some baffling terminology.

We believe in giving it to you plain and simple, so here’s our short guide to help demystify some of that medical jargon. 


This is a fancy term for the absence of your menstrual cycle. It occurs when your periods have stopped for about six months.

Bio-identical hormones

These compounds mimic your body’s hormones and usually are derived from plants. Some women believe these are a more ‘natural’ alternative to menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), but unlike prescription medicines, their production is unregulated and there is limited conclusive evidence to support their effectiveness in reducing menopausal symptoms.


Estrogen is the most significant sex hormone in your body. She’s responsible for the development and maintenance of all your feminine wiles, both physically and emotionally.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

This prescription medication restores a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels. It’s now called menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), and is defined below.

Hot flush (or flash)

Classed as a ‘vasomotor’ symptom – which has to do with blood vessels -  a hot flush suddenly radiates throughout your body and can last from a few seconds or up to four minutes. It may be accompanied by a case of the sweats with a side of the chills.


The big one, aka menopause, occurs when you haven’t had your period for 12 months.  If this happens, you’re considered to be in natural menopause and should never again experience a period.

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)

Most menopausal symptoms occur due a reduction in estrogen and progesterone levels. MHT – also known as HRT (see definition above) -- is a medical treatment that replaces these hormones to help alleviate menopausal symptoms.


Also referred to as ‘the menopause transition’, perimenopause happens before menopause hits.

During this stage, the hormones in your body start to get a bit out of whack in preparation for entering true menopause, which is the permanent end of your periods. 


Postmenopause occurs after you’ve had 12 consecutive months without a period. This stage can last many years considering how long women live.

Night sweats

Night sweats are a two-for-one deal: a hot flush combined with heavy perspiration that may rouse you from slumber land. This is another vasomotor symptom.


Phytoestrogens are basically plant estrogen. They are found in foods such as soy, some legumes, grains and vegetables. A diet high in phytoestrogens may help relieve menopause symptoms.


Progesterone is a hormone that kick starts your uterus each month in preparation for a possible pregnancy. Like estrogen, it’s rapidly depleted during menopause so accounts for an increase in symptoms.


Women produce testosterone but at lower levels than men and in their ovaries not testes. During menopause, the production slows which might have an unwanted (or wanted?!) effect on your sex drive.

Vaginal dryness 

The ‘ole vag ain’t immune to the effects of menopause. A drop in estrogen can cause vaginal dryness, irritation and discomfort. 

A drop in estrogen can cause vaginal dryness, irritation and discomfort.

That’s it for our list of menopause buzz words. We hope it helps demystify the process a little as you read up on the changes menopause brings to your life.


©Pfizer 2017.
Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney Australia.. PP-DUA-AUS-0191, 09/2017

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