Menopause is a process that all women experience after a certain point in their lives. But even though it’s a normal part of life, you probably still have a lot of questions surrounding it. Menopause is different for each woman, and it can cause a wide range of symptoms and manifestations.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about menopause.
Menopause isn’t a disorder — it’s simply a transition that happens when a woman stops having her periods and is thus unable to get pregnant naturally. According to the Mayo Clinic, menopause is diagnosed once you haven’t had any menstrual bleeding for 12 straight months.
The menopausal transition is marked by many different changes in your hormone levels, body processes, and even in your natural build. Menopause affects each woman differently, but most women will agree that they experienced at least some symptoms during this stage.
Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, this process starts gradually during a stage known as perimenopause. According to the Cleveland Clinic, perimenopause occurs when your body’s production of estrogen begins to decrease. Estrogen is the main female sexual hormone, and it regulates many different processes in a woman’s body.
According to the Endocrine Society, some of the functions of estrogen include:
Perimenopause can start as early as your mid- to late thirties, or even during your mid-fifties. Its duration can also vary greatly. On average, most women are in menopause for 4 to 8 years, and the average menopause age in the United States is 51 years old. These statistics also vary depending on your ethnicity and family history. Some diseases and treatments — such as some types of chemotherapy and radiotherapy — can induce an early menopause. Women who need to have their ovaries removed also experience menopause as a result. Experiencing menopause before you reach the age of 40 is considered to be premature menopause.
During perimenopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels will gradually decrease as your ovaries produce smaller amounts of these hormones. Once you reach menopause, your sexual hormone levels will be too low to induce ovulation, so you won’t be able to get pregnant and will stop having menstrual cycles.
As we mentioned above, perimenopause and menopause can cause a wide range of symptoms that affect women differently. According to the National Institute on Aging can include:
The hormonal changes that cause all these symptoms can also lead to an increased risk for certain conditions. Female sexual hormones play a role in protecting you from some diseases, and this protective effect is lost after menopause. According to the Office on Women’s Health, common health problems in postmenopausal women include:
Despite the fact that menopause is a natural process that all women experience after a certain age, there are certain treatments that can help you regulate the uncomfortable symptoms that it can cause. Menopause treatments can also help manage the risks associated with this stage of life.
According to the NHS, treatments for menopause can include:
Keep in mind that the fact that you can’t get pregnant after menopause doesn’t mean that you can’t get an STD.