What is menopause? 

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstruation ends. It is part of a biological process that begins, for most women, in their mid-thirties. During this time, the ovaries gradually produce lower levels of sex hormones -- estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen promotes the development of a woman's breasts and uterus, controls the cycle of ovulation (when an ovary releases an egg into a fallopian tube), and affects many aspects of a woman's physical and emotional health. Progesterone controls menstruation (having a period) and prepares the lining of the uterus to receive the fertilized egg. 


"Natural menopause" begins when a woman has her last period, or stops menstruating, and is considered complete when menstruation has stopped for 1 year. This usually occurs between ages 45 and 55, with variations in timing from woman to woman. Women who undergo surgery to remove both ovaries (an operation called bilateral oophorectomy) experience "surgical menopause"--an immediate end to hormone production and menstruation. 

During menopause, a woman may experience problems such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, and vaginal dryness. In addition, some long-term conditions, such as osteoporosis and coronary heart disease, are more common in women in the decades after menopause. 

By the time the menopause transition is complete, hormone output has decreased significantly. Even though low levels of estrogen are produced by the adrenal glands and fat cells after menopause, they are only about one-tenth of the level found in premenopausal women. Progesterone is nearly absent in menopausal women.


Questions and Answers About Menopausal Hormone Use

Credits: National Cancer Institute

This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.

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