What is Menopause?

Menopause occurs when almost all ovarian follicles and oocytes in a woman’s ovaries have been depleted which marks the end of the reproductive cycle in a woman’s life. Menopause is considered final when there has been no bleeding at all for a period of 12 months, not even spotting.The word menopause comes from the Greek “pausis”, meaning cessation and the root word “men”, meaning month, i.e. cessation of menses. Natural menopause occurs as part of the normal aging process, typically during the late 40’s to early 50’s, and signals the end of fertility. The transition from being reproductive to being non-reproductive as a result of changes in the hormonal production of the ovaries, is not abrupt or sudden, but tends to last for a period of several years.

As the number of ovarian follicles and oocytes start to decrease at the beginning of the menopausal phase, there is a corresponding increase in FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone), resulting in a decrease in the production of estrogen, which leads to perimenopausal symptoms. These symptoms include hot flushes, mood changes, vaginal dryness and insomnia, which often significantly disrupt the normal sense of well being in a woman. The degree to which symptoms are experienced differ widely from woman to woman. All of these symptoms are caused by the overall drop and erratic fluctuations of levels of estrogen and progesterone, and formication (itching, tingling o crawling skin sensations) may be directly associated with homone withdrawal.

Perimenopause, leading up to the final menopause, is a naturally occurring stage of a woman’s life and is not a disorder or disease which requires medical intervention, however, in cases where the mental, emotional and physical effects of perimenopause drastically disrupt the well being of a woman, palliative therapy may be appropriate. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) containing estrogen plus progestin is prescribed for use by women with a uterus, or estrogen alone for women who have had a hysterectomy.

Most women identify a lack of energy as the most distressing and frequent effect during perimenopause. Other effects may include heart palpitations, depression, irritability, anxiety, memory problems, lack of concentration and frequent urination.

At the onset of the menopausal phase, a woman will experience erratic menstrual periods and the timing of periods will become unpredictable. Flow may be considerabley longer or shorter, heavier or lighter than usual, including episodes of spotting. Later into the process a woman may skip periods, sometimes for months, only to be followed by heavy flow. These episodes of skipped periods will increase over time until all periods have ceased. After a period of 12 months have elapsed with no periods or spotting, a woman is considered to be post menopausal.

Genital bleeding is alarming in postmenopausal women and requires immediate examination to discard the possibility of malignant disease it may be related to a benign polyp, or lesion, or to functional endometrial response.

Menopause, a natural occurrence in a woman’s life, can be made easier to bear by taking a few precautions and appropriate remedies. Melotonin may help with sleeplessness and wearing light layers of clothing, which can be removed when hot flushes occur, is helpful to lower body temperature.

Recommended reading: Menopause (via Health 365)