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Harvard Commentaries
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Female Reproductive Cycle

September 08, 2011

Women's Health
Female Reproductive Cycle
Female Reproductive Cycle
What are the stages of the female reproductive cycle? Use our chart to find out what happens when.
InteliHealth Content

InteliHealth Content

The Female Reproductive Cycle

Phase What It Is Age Range Signs And Symptoms
Reproductive Years Also known as a woman's "childbearing years," when estrogen and progesterone cycle on a regular basis and achieve their highest levels to prepare for a potential pregnancy and to maintain a pregnancy. Typically from the onset of menstruation — around ages 11 or 12 — to the early 50s. •Monthly menses
•Uterine cramps
•Tender breasts
•Bloated feeling
•Premenstrual depression
•Other premenstrual symptoms
•Other related disorders, such as endometriosis and fibroid tumors
Perimenopause The time of transition between the childbearing years and the non-childbearing years when estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate and begin to decline. From as young as the late 30s to the early or mid-50s. •PMS symptoms
•Irregular menses
•Hot flashes
•Night sweats
•Sleep problems
•Poor concentration
•Other related disorders
Menopause The last day of the final menstruation, confirmed after an absence of periods for a year. Hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone are too low to trigger the ovaries to produce a single egg for its monthly release. From the late 40s to the late 50s. •Menses cease
•Hot flashes
•Night sweats
•Vaginal dryness
•Loss of libido
•Increased risk of heart disease
Postmenopause The years following the menopause, when hot flashes and night sweats begin to decrease. Estrogen levels have declined significantly, reportedly to about 20% of what it was during the reproductive years. Any time during the 50s, and all the years afterward. •Vaginal dryness
•Painful intercourse
•Urinary/bladder problems
•Loss of libido

See a doctor if you:

•Have a history of depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
•Begin to have irregular menses or notice other changes, such as heavier-than-normal or lighter-than-normal bleeding, bleeding between periods, or prolonged menses. These symptoms could be due to other problems not related to perimenopause.
•Feel anxious, irritable, panicky, teary and depressed or suicidal.
•Experience problems with sleeping, such as waking up early or in the middle of your sleep cycle and finding it hard to go back to sleep.
•Experience problems with sexual satisfaction, painful intercourse, or decreased interest in sexual relations.

Remember: A combination of things can help ease perimenopausal depression, from regular exercise to psychological counseling and medication.




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