What is menopause?
Menopause is part of a woman's aging process that occurs when hormone levels drop. It is the end of a woman's menstrual periods and marks the end of her childbearing years. The actual process of menopause can begin 4-6 years before the final menstrual period. A woman is through menopause 1 year after her final menstruation, after which she is then postmenopausal.
During the past few centuries the age of the advent of menopause has not changed and has been unaffected by increased life expectancy, changes in nutrition or improved health care, although smoking and genetic dispositions have been identified as influencing factors.
What causes menopause?
Women are born with a finite number of eggs. In addition to storing eggs, the ovaries also produce estrogen and progesterone. When the egg supply is depleted, the hormones are no longer produced as they are not needed. "Natural" menopause occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55. Menopause that occurs before the age of 45, regardless of the cause (certain types of surgery can cause menopause), is premature menopause.
If menopause is induced surgically, fertility ends immediately. Other types of induced menopause could result in its gradual ending over several years.
Early menopause symptoms are abnormal menstrual cycles, hot flashes, mood changes, insomnia, vaginal dryness and itching, incontinence, reduced sex drive and other symptoms.
Menopause transition begins when variations happen in a woman's menstrual cycle and ends with the final menstrual period. It usually lasts about 4-6 years.
Climacteric describes the transition from a woman's reproductive phase to the non-reproductive phase.
Postmenopause refers to the time after the last final menstrual period occurred.
Perimenopause refers to the period around (before and after) menopause,
but is also used to indicate menopause transition or climacteric.
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