Menopause is the period ending the female reproduction phase. Menopause starts with the end of menstruation. Over time, the ovaries gradually lose the ability to produce estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. As the production of estrogen decreases, ovulation and menstruation occur less often, and eventually stops. Menstruation may stop earlier in life because of an illness or hysterectomy. It these cases we speak about induced menopause.
In Europe and in North America, menopause usually happens when a woman is around 51-52. Menopause can however sometimes happen as early as 40. The age and symptoms of menopause have also a strong genetic influence. As a rule of thumb, woman who started menstruation early are more likely to experience menopause problems earlier.
Perimenopause is the period of gradual changes that lead to menopause. Some woman my experience perimenopause as early as 35. The perimenopause can take a few months or even years. During perimenopause the production of estrogen slows down and estrogen levels fluctuate. This causes problems similar to puberty, but more intense.
Postmenopause is the period after menopause.
Problems during and after menopause
During and after menopause the women may experience health problems. Like puberty and pregnancy, menopause is influenced by physical and psychological problems caused by hormonal changes. Osteoporosis which results in brittle bones can be accelerated by low levels of estrogens. These low levels of estrogen can also lead to heart problems. Other problems which women may experience are the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years beyond 65. During menopause the typical menopausal symptoms may be experienced such as night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety and hot flushes.
More literature about menopause
The clinical use of a preparation based on phyto-oestrogens in the treatment of menopausal disorders. Acta Biomed Ateneo Parmense. 2003 Dec;74(3):137-43
Soy protein and isoflavones: their effects on blood lipids and bone density in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Dec;68(6 Suppl):1375S-1379S
Isoflavones from red clover improve systemic arterial compliance but not plasma lipids in menopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999 Oct;84(10):3647
Alternative treatments for menopause symptoms. Systematic review of scientific and lay literature. Can Fam Physician. 1998 Jun;44:1299-308
Effects of Phytoestrogens on Bone Turnover in Postmenopausal Women with a History of Breast Cancer. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism Vol. 89, No. 3 1207-1212