The menopause is a natural time in a woman's life, but can give rise to symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes
This page explores the different stages of menopause. There's also a Q&A service where you can get answers to all your questions.
Stages of menopause
By definition, a woman reaches menopause when she has not had her period for at least 12 consecutive months, but the process leading up to menopause can last many years.
The two- to seven-year period that precedes menopause is called perimenopause. The post-menopausal years are those following a one-year duration of no menstruation. Although, some women still have symptoms of hot flashes and sweats into their post-menopausal years.
|Perimenopause||Around 40 to 45 years of age|
|Menopause||Around 50 years of age|
|Post-menopause||Around and after 55 years of age|
Timing may be influenced by genetics, start of puberty, number of pregnancies, years on oral contraception or by other factors such as health, smoking habits and psychological issues.
On average, women reach menopause at the age of 51. The number of menopausal women is on the rise. It is estimated that by the year 2026, 7.9 million Canadian women will be over the age of 50.
Changes in the body during menopause are caused primarily by a gradual decrease in the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones.
Female Hormones 101
The cycles of hormone fluctuations that began with puberty stop and a woman is no longer able to conceive. In effect, the ovaries take a long-awaited rest. This results in the virtual elimination of progesterone.
Oestrogen, on the other hand, can be synthesized and secreted from fat cells. However, these levels become significantly lower since their main purpose now is simply to maintain a woman's feminine features.
During the transitional years when the ovaries are slowing down and producing a diminishing amount of hormones, the adrenal glands are called upon to help minimize the fluctuations by secreting their own version of sex hormones. These help buffer the changes. It is the degree and speed of change, which causes menopausal symptoms.
Hot flashes & sweats can be very debilitating affecting a woman's self-confidence; resulting in embarrassment, discomfort and lack of concentration as well as sleep deprivation. The sweats can literally leave a woman drenched in perspiration. Hot flashes and sweats are typically a sign of low oestrogen.
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