What is Menopause?

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.


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. AWARE endeavors to separate the facts regarding these various facets of menopause so that you can sort through the data according to your special needs and desire for information. Menopause, whether entered naturally or through surgical or medical intervention, is inevitable for women who live long enough, and it deserves its nickname…"the change".


Women's Health Interactive has a series of Reproductive System Resources. Here you will find "Anatomy of the Monthly Hormonal Cycle, The Menstrual Cycle: A Beautiful Pattern" and "The Hormonal Cycle: A Delicate Balance." Fundamental to a woman's ownership and control of her body is awareness and control of her reproductive system. Women's Health Interactive also contains an Infertility Center with excellent diagrams and data about the biology of a woman's reproductive system, including a detailed graphic of the reproductive system. There is also a detailed segment, "The Menstrual Cycle."