Symptom experience during the late reproductive stage and the menopausal transition: observations from the Women Living Better survey

Menopause. 2021 Jul 26;28(9):1012-1025. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001805.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the occurrence of a variety of symptoms, their frequency, bother, burden, and interference in the lives of women in the late reproductive stage (LRS) and compare their experiences to that of women in the menopausal transition (MT) stage.

Methods: Women ages 35 to 55 years responded to an 82-question online survey offered by Women Living Better. Participants reported current menstrual patterns, recent changes and symptom frequency, bother, and interference. Women's cycles were classified as LRS or MT using Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop +10 criteria.

Results: Of 2,406 respondents, 946 met criteria for LRS and 583 for MT. Participants included 30% from outside the United States, 31% from diverse racial/ethnic groups, and 18% reported having difficulty paying for basics. A similar proportion of women in the LRS and MT+ groups reported each of the symptoms: there was a less than 10% difference for 54 of the 61 symptoms. Of mean bother ratings for all symptoms, only hot flashes differed significantly between the LRS and MT groups. LRS women experienced similar levels of symptom-related interference with personal relationships and daily living to those in the MT stage but did not anticipate these symptoms occurring until they were 50 years old.

Conclusions: Women in the LRS experience symptoms strikingly similar to those often associated with the MT. Women do not expect these changes until the age of 50 years or later and are surprised by such symptoms before cycle irregularity. Research about the epidemiology and management of LRS symptoms, anticipatory guidance for women, and education for clinicians who care for them warrant increased attention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging
  • Female
  • Hot Flashes* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Menopause*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproduction
  • Surveys and Questionnaires