Menopause is when the monthly cycle of menstruation ends. Menopause is a natural occurrence and marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. A women will know that she has reached menopause when she has not had a menstrual period for 12 months.
Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average being around 51. Menopause before the age of 40 is called ‘premature menopause’ and before the age of 45 it is called ‘early menopause’.
Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer release eggs and the production of oestrogen and progesterone starts to slow down. Hormone levels usually fluctuate around this time and women may notice changes in the cycle such as:
- longer, shorter or irregular cycles
- bleeding may become lighter
- bleeding may become heavy (seek advice from your doctor)
Eventually, hormone levels decrease to a point where periods stop altogether.
Although fertility after the age of 45 is low, women still need to use contraception. They should continue to use contraception until they haven’t had a period for one year if they are over 50 years old, or two years if under 50 years old.
Other symptoms of menopause can be both physical and emotional:
- aches and pains
- bloating and weigh gain
- crawling or itchy skin
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- urinary problem
- vaginal dryness
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- mood swings
- feeling unable to cope as well
- lack of interest in sex
- feeling anxious and irritable
The management and treatment of menopausal symptoms will depend on the woman, her stage of life, relationships and general health and wellbeing. Lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and/or prescription medications may help to control the symptoms.
For further information, go to JeanHailes.org.au or the Australasian Menopause Society site.