What Is Menopause?

Menopause is a period which all women will go through during their lifetime. Women will encounter menopause during their late forties and fifties. Some women will go through menopause period sooner and longer than others. Menopause can describe any of the changes a woman goes through either just before or after she stops menstruating, marking the end of her reproductive period.

Clinically, menopause is diagnosed in women who have not menstruated in more than 12 months.

What Causes Menopause?

A woman is born with a certain set number of eggs which are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries also make the hormones oestrogen and progesterone which control menstruation and ovulation. Menopause happens when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation ceases to occur.

Menopause is considered a normal part of aging when it happens after the age of 40. But some women can go through menopause early, either as a result of surgery, such as hysterectomy, or damage to the ovaries, such as from chemotherapy. Menopause that happens before 40, regardless of the cause, is called premature menopause.

What are the stages of natural menopause?

Natural menopause means that menopause is not induced by surgical treatment or procedures. It occurs when a woman no longer produces eggs and as such she stops menstruating. The process is gradual and has three stages:

Perimenopause – This stage may occur several years before actual menopause and occurs due to the fact that less eggs are being produced. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs.

In the last 1 to 2 years of perimenopause there is a significant drop in oestrogen levels and as a result thereof many women may already encounter menopausal symptoms.  At this stage, many women will have menopause symptoms.

Menopause. This is the stage where a woman has stopped menstruating for more than 12 months and has stopped producing eggs and therefore less oestrogen.

Postmenopause. This is the stage where menopause has officially stopped and menopausal symptoms will stop or ease off. Health risks however, as a result of the lack of oestrogen, increase.

Symptoms

Most women approaching menopause will have hot flashes, a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the upper body, often with blushing and some sweating. The severity of hot flashes varies from mild in most women to severe in others.

Other common symptoms around the time of menopause include:

Irritability

Racing heart

Headaches

Joint and muscle aches and pains

Changes in libido (sex drive)

Vaginal dryness

Bladder control problems

Irregular or skipped periods

Insomnia

Mood swings

Fatigue

Depression