Symptoms of Menopause
Know the symptoms which accompany menopause in midlife.
Because menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstruation ceases, it is important to understand what occurs during the normal menstrual cycle.
The reproductive years consist of the time from menarche, or the start of normal menses, until menopause. The ovaries produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen is produced throughout the menstrual cycle — for most women, a 28-day cycle. Estrogen stimulates the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus, to thicken and become more vascular. This is to provide a potential home for a fertilized egg, which implants in and gets its blood supply from the uterine wall.
Progesterone is produced in the latter half of the cycle and further stimulates thickening of the endometrium. If the egg is not fertilized after ovulation, the hormonal levels fall and menstruation results.
As women approach menopause, their ovaries begin to fluctuate and produce less estrogen and progesterone, and ovulation becomes less frequent. As a result, menstrual periods are more irregular. When periods occur, the menstrual flow is often different as well. Instead of four to seven days of normal flow, a woman may bleed one day, spot for two days, bleed a day and spot for three more.
True menopause is the cessation of egg release from the ovaries with accompanying cessation of menstrual flow, and is usually accompanied by several of the classic menopausal symptoms. These include:
- Hot flashes
- Sweating, especially at night
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings, including depression, altered self-esteem, and anger
- Low frustration tolerance
- Vaginal dryness, which can cause discomfort with urination and intercourse
- Alteration of memory
- Difficulty concentrating, and Some hair growth on the face, arms, chest or abdomen.
Copyright 2005 by W. David Hager. Used by permission. All rights reserved.