Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What is Menopause?

Overview

Menopause (alternative names - Perimenopause; Postmenopause) is the transition period in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. So, technically, the menopause is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period.

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Be aware that menopause is a natural biological process, not a medical illness in any way. Even so, the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause may show up as disturbing health symptoms – they can disrupt your sleep, sap your energy and — at least indirectly — trigger feelings of sadness and loss.

Hormonal changes cause the physical symptoms of menopause, but mistaken beliefs about the menopausal transition are partly to blame for the emotional ones. Definitely, the menopause doesn't mean you are approaching the end of life — you've still got as much as half ahead of you. Also, menopause will not assassinate out your femininity and sexuality. In fact, you may be one of the many women who find it liberating to stop worrying about pregnancy and periods.

Menopausal symptoms usually last for the whole transition period, but some women may experience them for the rest of their lives. However, this doesn’t mean you have to suffer a lifetime of discomfort. Even though menopause is not an illness, you should not hesitate to get medical or natural treatment to get relief for your symptoms. Many treatments are available, from lifestyle adjustments to hormone therapy, and we will discuss your options in details on this site.

Clear the Confusion

There is significant disagreement about the definition of menopause. Some confusion exists because there are several stages of the natural menopause process. Technically, natural menopause is the transition between perimenopause and postmenopause, the entire process culminating with the ceasing of the menses, generally around age 50 for most women.

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This natural menopause process itself is usually identified retrospectively, when it's been a year since a last period. Susun Weed, in her book Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way, describes natural menopause as a metamorphosis, a change from one person to another, similar to puberty. It can be viewed as a hormonal shift mirroring puberty.

Natural menopause occurs when the monthly cycle of ovulation comes to an end. This is because the ovarian supply of follicles and eggs declines sharply as a woman approaches menopause. During this time, called perimenopause, which can last anywhere from five to fifteen years, the brain continues to send out hormones trying to stimulate the development of ovarian follicles, and it is common for a woman's ovaries to respond erratically, so that her hormones fluctuate a great deal from month to month. These fluctuations are responsible for many of the symptoms of perimenopause.

Eventually, though, the ovaries are no longer able to develop an egg for ovulation. Ovarian production of estrogen goes into a permanent decline, and progesterone is no longer produced. The lining of the uterus thins, since it isn't being stimulated by high estrogen levels each month, and monthly bleeding stops. Menopause has occurred. Don't discount the importance of the postmenopausal ovary, however! It continues to produce hormones even after ovulation ends, producing some estrogen and also androgens (male hormones) including testosterone. Some of the androgens are converted to estrogen (estrone) in a woman's fat tissue.

Apart from the natural menopause transition (perimenopause to postmenopause) which most women will experience, some may face the challenge of a premature menopause in the form of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) or Surgical / Medical (instant) Menopause.


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