Menopause is the beginning of a distinct life phase when the ovaries stop producing eggs regularly. Production of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone declines, and menstruation decreases and eventually stops.
Symptoms of menopause
Menopause-related changes, or symptoms, usually begin approximately six years before natural menopause. Fluctuations in the levels of hormones produced by the ageing ovaries lead to physiological short-term changes.
As the ovaries become less functional they produce less oestrogen, a state to which the body subsequently reacts. Because oestrogen affects large portions of the body, hormonal changes are felt in a number of ways. For some women the associated discomforts are minimal, while others must deal with severe symptoms and risk factors for disease.
A gradual decrease in oestrogen allows the body to slowly adjust, and symptoms may come on slowly and be subtle. In some women, however, a sudden decrease occurs, causing severe symptoms. This often happens with surgical menopause.Some women experience few or no symptoms; others experience various symptoms ranging from mild to fairly severe.
Larger women may have fewer symptoms because fat cells manufacture a form of oestrogen. If symptoms occur, they may include:
• Hot flushes (hot flashes)
• Vaginal dryness
• Urinary tract problems
• Changes in menstrual patterns
• Increased premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
• Mood Changes
• Fluctuations in sexual desire or response
• Fatigue and/or Insomnia
• Decreasing fertility
• Body and skin changes