A Change in Life: Menopause

Menopause is the permanent end to the menstruation cycle in a woman who reaches the average age of fifty-one in the USA. Other countries have slightly earlier or later ages depending on the overall nutrition and doctor's care available to the women in that country. Menopause is said to have been reached when a woman has not had any sort of period for a minimum of one year since the last one.


When a woman reaches her mid thirties she can begin to have menopause symptoms. Her period usually gets either lighter and shorter or heavier and longer lasting, depending on the woman, and they also become more irregular so that there are some months where she will not have a period at all.

When she reaches her forties, then the more noticeable menopause symptoms usually set in. These include the most common type of menopause symptom, which are hot flashes. A woman can also be afflicted with sleeping disorders, mood swings and changes to her skin, such as dryness around her mouth and eyes. In addition, there can be a loss of bladder control and an increase in fat around her abdomen. Her breasts will also start to lose their fullness and her hair may also thin slightly.

Women usually retain the sex drive that they had before starting menopause, but sometimes there is a decrease in sex drive, which may be connected to the problem of vaginal dryness which makes intercourse uncomfortable if certain measures are not taken.

Causes and tests

The causes of menopause are that the woman's body produces less estrogen and progesterone than it used to produce. There are fewer eggs that are ripening for fertilization, and when they do, there is a lesser surge in progesterone for the post ovulation surge. This change in hormone levels is what causes the symptoms and mood swings in women.

One way for doctors to test for a move into menopause is to do a simple blood test. This test looks for FSH, or follicle stimulating hormones, and also estrogen levels. If these levels are below normal, there is a good chance that the body is moving into menopause. If the woman is too young to start the process, then the doctors can take the appropriate measures for treatment, such as lifestyle changes or hormone therapies. There are certain procedures that might trigger this early menopause, such as hysterectomies and chemotherapy or radiation treatments.