Menopause is a time in a woman's life when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and regular periods stop. Menopause is not a medical problem, it is a natural biological process.
For most women, menopause does not happen instantly or overnight, it is gradual and most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, the average being around 50. This depends on the individual body development and hormone levels. As you approach menopause the production of hormones (for example estrogen) by the ovaries starts to slow down. As this process accelerates, hormone levels fluctuate more and often a woman notices changes in her menstrual cycle:
- Cycles may become longer, shorter or totally irregular
- Bleeding may become lighter, unpredictable or heavy
Eventually the hormone levels will fall to a level where menstruation will cease altogether and then menopause is reached.
Other signs and symptoms
- Hot flashes as your estrogen level drops, your blood vessels may expand rapidly, causing your skin temperature to rise
- Decreased fertility
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep disturbances and night sweats
- Changes in appearance
- Emotional changes
- Mood swings
- Aches and pains
- Crawling or itching sensations under the skin
- Lack of self-esteem
- Reduced sex drive (libido)
- Urinary frequency
Several chronic medical conditions tend to appear after menopause. By becoming aware of the following conditions, you can take steps to help reduce your risk:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Stress urinary incontinence
- Weight gain
Hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy effectively reduces many of the unpleasant symptoms and side-effects of menopause. If you are also in a category at risk of osteoporosis, hormone replacement could be considered as it can stop the progression of osteoporosis disease. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of hormone replacement with your own doctor.