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YOUR MENOPAUSE CENTER







WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?

Menopause is the time at "mid-life" when a woman has her last period. It happens when the ovaries stop releasing eggs — usually a gradual process. Sometimes it happens all at once. It can be a stop-start process that may take months or years. "Climacteric" is another word for the time when a woman passes from the reproductive to the non-reproductive years of her life.

The ovaries' production of estrogen slows down during perimenopause. Hormone levels fluctuate, causing changes just as they did during adolescence. The changes leading to menopause may seem much more intense than those during puberty. The intensity may be affected by a woman's feelings about aging, including her reactions to social judgments about aging. Induced menopause occurs if the ovaries are removed or damaged as in hysterectomy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. In this case, menopause begins immediately, with no perimenopause. The time after menopause is called postmenopause.


PERIMENOPAUSE AND MENOPAUSE

Perimenopause is the time of change leading up to actual menopause-the normal biological event that marks the end of a woman's reproductive years. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, lasts about 4 to 5 years, and is commonly associated with a shift from regular to irregular menstrual cycles prior to stopping completely.

Symptoms associated with menopause may also occur during this transitional period. Menopause is one of the major turning points in a woman's life. Approaching menopause involves a process of change — and every woman experiences this transition in unique and individual ways. Many women discover that menopause gives them a new lease on life — physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. They are enthusiastic about becoming free of their concerns about pregnancy and menstruation.


WHAT GOES WRONG?

In the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause) menstrual cycles that may once have been like clockwork start to become erratic. Bleeding may be heavier or lighter than usual—although women are not officially in menopause until they have had 12 consecutive months without a period. Erratic cycles are a sign of erratic ovulation leading to highs and lows in estrogen and progesterone, an effect many women describe as an emotional roller coaster.

Forgetfulness and foggy thinking, mental confusion and mood swings are hallmark symptoms for many women; as are hot flashes and night sweats, tearfulness, unwanted weight gain, thyroid problems and declining interest in sex, no matter how much we love our partner. Of course not all women experience all these symptoms—as individuals we each have our very own biochemistry—but it is common to experience some degree of discomfort during the menopausal years. And the degree to which we experience discomfort is likely to be associated with the degree to which our hormones are out of balance.



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