Understanding Menopause

All women experience menopause at one time or another as they age. Menopause is a general term that refers to the changes that women go through both before and after she stops menstruating. This time period in a woman’s life signals the end of her reproductive period.

The Causes of Menopause

Women are born with a finite amount of eggs. The eggs are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries produce two types of hormones: progesterone and estrogen. These hormones control ovulation and menstruation. When the ovaries stop releasing an egg each month, menstruation ends and menopause sets in.

When menopause happens after the age of 40, it’s considered a normal part of a woman’s aging. However, some people go through menopause earlier in life. This can be the result of a surgery, like a hysterectomy, or it can happen if the ovaries have been damaged, as sometimes happens during chemotherapy. When menopause occurs before the age of 40, it’s referred to as premature menopause, regardless of its cause.

The 3 Stages of Menopause

In order to understand menopause and to feel like you can still have management over your body, it’s important to know the three stages of menopause.

  1. Perimenopause: This starts happening several years prior to menopause. The ovaries naturally start to make less and less estrogen. This stage will last up until the point of menopause. During the last two years of perimenopause, the estrogen drop speeds up. Women often experience symptoms of menopause at this stage.
  2. Menopause: This stage technically occurs one year from the woman’s last period. The ovaries have completely stopped releasing eggs at this point. The ovaries have also stopped making estrogen, for the most part.
  3. Postmenopause: The years following menopause are referred to as postmenopause. Some menopause symptoms may still occur, including hot flashes.

Menopause Symptoms

Women who are approaching menopause often have hot flashes, which is when they suddenly get warm throughout the upper body. This can lead to sweating and blushing, but severity differs in each person. Additional symptoms include irregular periods, insomnia, mood swings, irritability, racing heart, depression, headaches, aches and pains, bladder control issues, and a change in sex drive.

Some women suspect the approach of menopause on their own by paying attention to their body and comparing changes to the normal signs of menopause. Other women talk to their doctors about the women’s health changes they’re experiencing and medication options. Your doctor can also do a blood test to determine if you’re in menopause.