Menopause is a normal condition that all women experience as they age.
The term “menopause” can describe any of the changes a woman goes through either just before or after she stops menstruating, marking the end of her reproductive period.
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs, which are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries also make the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control menstruation and ovulation. Menopause happens when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation stops.
Menopause is considered a normal part of ageing when it happens after the age of 40. But some women can go through menopause early, either as a result of surgery, such as hysterectomy, or damage to the ovaries, such as from chemotherapy. Menopause that happens before 40, regardless of the cause, is called premature menopause.
Natural menopause is not brought on by any type of medical or surgical treatment. The process is gradual and has three stages:
The perimenopause typically begins several years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually make less estrogen. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen quickens. At this stage, many women have menopause symptoms.
Menopause refers to the point when it’s been a year since a woman last had her last menstrual period. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and making most of their estrogen.
The years after ease for most women, but health risks related to the loss of estrogen rise as the woman ages.
Premature menopause can be the result of genetics, autoimmune disorders, or medical procedures. Other conditions that may cause early menopause include premature ovarian failure.
This occurs when, normally, the ovaries make both estrogen and progesterone. Changes in the levels of these two hormones happen when the ovaries, for unknown reasons, prematurely stop releasing eggs. When this happens before the age of 40, it’s called premature ovarian failure. Unlike premature menopause, premature ovarian failure is not always permanent.
Another factor is induced menopause, which happens when the ovaries are surgically removed for medical reasons, such as uterine cancer or endometriosis. Induced menopause can also result from damage to the ovaries caused by radiation or chemotherapy.
The risk of premature or early menopause is higher among women who began having menstrual periods at a young age and did not have children, a new report contends.
The new research included more than 51,000 women in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.
Women who started their menstrual periods at age 11 or younger were 80 per cent more likely to have premature menopause than those who started their periods between ages 12 and 13. Women who began menstruating at 11 or younger were also 30 per cent more likely to have early menopause, the study authors said.
Those who had never been pregnant or never had children had a twofold increased risk of premature menopause. These women also had a 30 per cent increased risk of early menopause, according to the study.
The risk of premature or early menopause was highest among women whose periods started at a young age and also had no children. For example, among women with both factors, the odds of premature menopause were five times higher. And the odds of early menopause was twice as high compared with women who had their first period at age 12 or older and also had two or more children, the study authors said.