When Does the Menopause Begin?
The menopause, climacteric or “change of life” may begin for women at any time from the late 30s to early 50s, but usually occurs at around the age of 45. The menopause is the sign that the reproductive period of a woman’s life is coming to a close. The female ovaries no longer produce eggs or hormones and, therefore, menstruation ceases.
From the time a woman begins to have a regular menstrual or monthly period, a single egg ripens in the ovary each month. This egg is shed from the ovary and passes down the oviduct to the womb or uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, it dies and the lining of the womb, together with some blood, is shed and passed out through the vagina. Afterwards a new lining grows, ready for the next egg.
Some women feel depressed and unwell at the time of the menopause as their bodies adjust themselves for the next phase of life. But these symptoms usually disappear with time. The length of the menopause varies. Men also pass through a menopause when there is a marked decline in the production of sperms. But the outward symptoms are not usually very marked, and the change usually takes place later in life, between 55 and 60.
Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any vaginal bleeding for a year. It may also be defined by a decrease in hormone production by the ovaries. In those who have had surgery to remove their uterus but they still have ovaries, menopause may be viewed to have occurred at the time of the surgery or when their hormone levels fell. Following the removal of the uterus, symptoms typically occur earlier, at an average of 45 years of age.
Before menopause, a woman’s periods typically become irregular, which means that periods may be longer or shorter in duration or be lighter or heavier in the amount of flow. During this time, women often experience hot flashes; these typically last from 30 seconds to ten minutes and may be associated with shivering, sweating, and reddening of the skin. Hot flashes often stop occurring after a year or two.
Other symptoms may include vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping, and mood changes. The severity of symptoms varies between women. While menopause is often thought to be linked to an increase in heart disease, this primarily occurs due to increasing age and does not have a direct relationship with menopause. In some women, problems that were present like endometriosis or painful periods will improve after menopause.
Menopause is usually a natural change. It can occur earlier in those who smoke tobacco. Other causes include surgery that removes either ovaries or some types of chemotherapy. At the physiological level, menopause happens because of a decrease in the ovaries’ production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. While typically not needed, a diagnosis of menopause can be confirmed by measuring hormone levels in the blood or urine. Menopause is the opposite of menarche, the time when a girl’s periods start.