Natural Menopause: A Normal Phase of Life

For women, there’s nothing more “natural” than natural menopause. This term may be confusing not only for men, but also for young women who aren’t aware that there are two other very different types of menopause that are anything but natural. The great majority of women enter the phase of life called natural menopause in their late 40’s or early to mid-50’s.

In both phases, the symptoms are very similar, but in pre-menopause they are less frequent and less severe. These symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood irritability, erratic menstrual periods, heart palpitations, panic attacks, vaginal dryness and skin wrinkling. When a woman has not had a menstrual period for one year, she is said to be post-menopausal; her childbearing years are over.

Identifying Other Forms of Menopause

Natural menopause is a completely normal and expected phase of a woman’s life. She knows the signs and symptoms, she knows that severe symptoms can be medically treated, and she knows that the symptoms will eventually come to an end as she ages. However, surgical menopause and chemical menopause are often unexpected, sudden, and emotionally traumatic. These two types of menopause are experienced very differently than natural menopause.

Surgical menopause occurs when a woman who is still of childbearing age undergoes a medically necessary total hysterectomy; the surgical removal of the uterus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. This procedure is performed when a condition such as an aggressive reproductive organ cancer isn’t responding to chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy; it is deemed medically necessary to save the woman’s life and hopefully prevent the cancer from spreading.

The physical trauma from this major invasive surgery is difficult enough, but the emotional trauma is even worse. Young women must accept that they will never have a child, or another child. In psychotherapy, these women often discuss feeling as if they’re no longer “real” women because of their inability to have children. Natural menopause causes many uncomfortable symptoms, but surgical menopause can carry deep emotional wounds.

Chemical menopause is similar to surgical menopause in its emotional effects upon the women who require it. This procedure does not involve radical invasive surgery and is rarely associated with cancer. Natural menopause results from the cessation of estrogen production; this causes the end of menstrual cycles. Chemically-induced menopause occurs when a woman is given medications like Depot Lupron that eliminate menstrual cycles due to lack of estrogen production. Chemical menopause mimics natural menopause; women experience most of the same symptoms, except for erratic menstrual periods since there are none.

Depot Lupron is an injection given every three months to women who suffer from severe pain from widespread endometriosis, chronic ovarian cysts and excessive bleeding to the point where they suffer from life-threatening anemia. Depot Lupron is usually given for a short time, perhaps six months, while the option of surgical menopause is considered. However, it can be given for a decade or more, although this is not typical and is an extreme exception.

Sooner or later, a woman in her late 40’s or 50’s must stop taking Depot Lupron and proceed through natural menopause. Depot Provera is a medical “cousin” to Depot Lupron but in some cases it can actually cause more bleeding rather than end it. Since Depot Lupron is administered for radical endometrial bleeding, chances are that the woman would not be able to carry a child to term naturally anyway. When women consider the physical and emotional trauma of surgical and chemical menopause, somehow natural menopause doesn’t seem so awful after all.

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