Menopause is a normal condition that all women experience as they age. The term “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.
Typically, a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs in her early 50s and the menstrual cycle stops. Some women breeze through menopause with only the odd hot flush, but others can struggle with a variety of symptoms.
The physiological reason for the body changing is the drop in oestrogen and progesterone production and the effect this has on other hormones. This affects women in completely different ways, but the most common symptoms include: hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, impairment of memory and fatigue. Long-term consequences can include a decline in libido, osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.
Menopause is gradual and has three stages:
1. Perimenopause: Menstrual cycles are irregular but have not stopped. On average women are about 47 years of age when they reach this stage. The ovaries are gradually producing less oestrogen so menopausal symptoms may start to develop.
2. Menopause: This starts about a year after the last menstrual period. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems and other symptoms are common.
3. Post menopause: The time of a woman’s life following menopause. During this time, many of the symptoms gradually decrease. Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of developing a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.