What is The Menopause?
The menopause is also called the ‘change of life’, is defined as the end of the last menstrual period. In Western women, it occurs on average at 51 years. But there's a wide range of normal extending from your 30s to 60s.
What Doe The Menopause Feel Like?
The menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer respond to the hormones that are released by the pituitary gland in the brain. This results in the ovaries failing to release an egg each month and to produce the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is the fall in the levels of these hormones in the bloodstream that gives rise to the symptoms of menopause.
How does the menopause start?
Many women experience symptoms of the menopause and irregular periods for several years up to the menopause itself. This is called the climacteric, or 'peri-menopause', and represents the gradual decline in the normal function of the ovaries.
One of the common problems is that periods become erratic both in spacing and amount. However until the periods peter out altogether, heavy bleeding can cause plenty of problems.
Every woman experiences the menopause differently. Some hardly notice 'the change', except perhaps their periods become irregular. Others suffer every symptom and find their lives are severely affected. However the transition into the menopause is usually gradual and is accompanied by a range of symptoms.
Hot flushes and sweating - The most common symptoms by far are ‘hot flushes’ and sweating attacks. These episodes can happen at any time, as often as several times during the day. Each hot flush can last for three to six minutes.
Sleep disturbance - Sleeping difficulty can be due to problems falling asleep, restlessness or night-time sweats. Some women sweat so heavily that they have to get up to change the sheets several times a night.
Psychological changes - Mood swings, depression, tiredness or headaches, forgetfulness or irritability are all possible symptoms and can be distressing to both you and the rest of the family.
Physical changes -
Osteoporosis - In recent years there has been a lot of interest in osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) in connection with the menopause. It has been realised that oestrogen normally stimulates the bone-building cells. So as a result of the drop in oestrogen, women tend to lose bone mass and strength for several years following the menopause, which can mean that the bones more likely to collapse or fracture.
Content by Jane Morris - connect with me on Google+