Menopause is when menstruation ceases and the ovaries permanently stop releasing eggs. It is considered complete when a woman has been without her period for a full year.
The transition of menopause starts with different menstrual cycle length and ends with the last menstrual period. Perimenopause means “the time around menopause” and is often used to refer to the period of the menopause transition. It is not officially a medical term, but is sometimes used to explain some aspects of the transition to menopause layman’s terms. Postmenopause is the entire time period that comes after the last menstrual period.
Menopause is the time in a female’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases. The ovary (female gonad), is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and female hormones such as estrogen. During each monthly menstrual cycle, an egg is released from an ovary. The egg travels from the ovary through a fallopian tube toward the uterus.
The ovaries are the main source of female hormones that control the development of the female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. The hormones also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Estrogens also protect the bones. Therefore, a woman may develop osteoporosis (thinning of bones) later in life when her ovaries do not produce adequate estrogen.
Perimenopause is different for every woman. Scientists are still trying to identify all the factors that initiate and influence this transition period.
At what age does a woman typically reach menopause?
The average age of menopausal period is 51 years old. But there is no way to predict when a particular woman will enter this condition. The age at which a woman starts having menstrual periods is also not age-related onset of menopause. Most women reach menstrual stage between the ages of 45 and 55, but it may occur as early as 30 or 40 years or may not occur until a woman reaches her 60s. As a rough “rule of thumb,” women tend to experience this condition at an age similar to that of their mothers.
Perimenopause, often accompanied by irregularities in the menstrual cycle with the typical symptoms of early menopause, can begin 10 years prior to the last menstrual phase.
What conditions can affect the timing of menopause?
Some medical and surgical conditions can influence the time.
Surgical removal of the ovaries
Surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) a woman of ovulation will result in immediate menopause, sometimes called surgical menopause or menopause induced. In this case, there is no perimenopause and after surgery, women will usually experience several signs and symptoms. In case of surgical menopause, women often report that the onset of menopause symptoms cause symptoms that are particularly severe, but it is not always the case.
The ovaries are often removed together with the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). If a hysterectomy is performed without removal of both ovaries in a woman who has not yet reached the condition, the remaining ovary or ovaries are still capable of normal hormone production. While a woman can not have periods after the uterus is removed through a hysterectomy, the ovaries themselves can continue to produce hormones to normal time when it naturally occur. At that time a woman could experience the other symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. These symptoms would then not be associated with the cessation of menstruation. Another possibility is that premature ovarian failure will occur earlier than the scheduled time, from 1-2 years after hysterectomy. If this happens, a woman may or may not be symptoms of menopause.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy of cancer
Depending on the type and location of the cancer and its treatment, these types of treatment against cancer (chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy) may lead to menopause if given to an ovulating woman. In this case, the symptoms can begin during the treatment of cancer or may develop in the months following treatment.
Premature ovarian failure
Premature ovarian failure is defined as the onset of menopause before the age of 40. This condition occurs in about 1% of all women. The cause of premature ovarian failure is not fully understood but may be related to autoimmune diseases or hereditary (genetic) factors.
Natural menopause is a gradual process. The ovaries begin producing lower amounts of estrogen and other steroid hormones prior to it during a phase called perimenopause.
When the condition occurs before the age of 40 is called premature menopause. It can occur naturally, but can also be the result of several conditions, including:
- Family history of premature menopause
- Autoimmune diseases
- Abnormalities of chromosome X
- Medical treatments (pelvic surgery, surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy or pelvic radiotherapy)
- Medications that lower estrogen levels
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. As this health condition is a natural process associated with aging, there are no risk factors.
Risk factors for premature menopause include:
- Family history