menopause

Female Menopause Questions and Answers

Every young girl, especially those with older sisters, grows up hearing about puberty and the onset of menstruation, childbearing, and menopause. Menstruation usually begins, on average, between the ages of 11-13; then the mystery of “having periods” is finally solved. As they grow older, young women begin to have children – the mystery of pregnancy and childbirth is also solved. But female menopause is a long in the future; thus, it remains mysterious to younger women. They do learn what female menopause actually is, but until something is actually experienced, it remains not only mysterious but somewhat dreaded as well; the fear of the unknown.

However, female menopause isn’t a mystery, any more than going through puberty is mysterious. Two hundred years ago, during the Victorian era, female menopause was as much of a mystery as the identity of Jack the Ripper! It was not considered a proper topic for any type of polite conversation; women learned the true facts of female menopause only when they started going through it. Today women are much more fortunate; they learn what they need to know about this phase of life way in advance of when they actually experience it, thus relieving fear and dread of the unknown.

What are the Phases and Symptoms of Female Menopause?

Female menopause is defined as the cessation of a woman’s childbearing years. It consists of three phases: pre-menopause, also called peri-menopause, actual natural menopause, and post-menopause. The cause of female menopause is declining levels of the estrogen hormone that governs menstruation and pregnancy. Peri-menopause normally occurs 5-6 years before actual menopause begins; its symptoms are similar to those of actual menopause but in a lesser degree. These symptoms include irregular menstrual periods, heavy and/or painful periods, chronic insomnia, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, heart palpitations and mood irritability.

Post-menopause is the phase that occurs after estrogen production has ceased and menstrual periods stop completely. In this phase, the most serious symptom is osteoporosis, a condition also called “brittle bones” particularly the bones in the upper spine. The so-called “Dowager’s Hump” on a post-menopausal woman’s upper back is the result of tiny fractures of the spine. Osteoporosis is caused by calcium deficiency and can be avoided simply by taking extra calcium supplements.

Actual, or normal, female menopause usually occurs in women in their late 40’s to mid-50’s. During this phase, the symptoms mentioned above intensify in severity and frequency. Estrogen production ceases, and menopausal women are no longer fertile to bear children. When a full year has passed without a menstrual period, female menopause is complete and the troublesome symptoms eventually fade away.


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