Menopause is the end of a woman’s childbearing years and the end of menstruation, her monthly period. You are born with a finite number of eggs. These form in the ovaries and are normally released monthly. Your ovaries also produce the hormones which control your monthly cycle. Progesterone and estrogen tell your body when to ovulate and release an egg and when your period should begin for the month. Menopause is the end of both events. This is a natural event, and a normal part of a woman’s aging process not a disease.

Menopause is a process and occurs gradually over several years. Although menopause is commonly spoken of as a single event, the medical community breaks it up into two sections. The period leading up to menopause is called peri-menopause. During this phase, you will begin to see the signs that your estrogen and progesterone production is decreasing, and menopause is in your future. You can experience mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats. This can last between 4-5 years, but you will still have periods during that time. However, your experience with menopause will be unique to you. For some women, peri-menopause will only last a few months. For others, it can last up to ten years. There is no hard and fast rule on your body’s time table.

Menopause is considered complete when you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period. The average age is 50-51. Again, your body has its own timetable unique to you. Women who smoke tend to enter menopause at an earlier age. Post-menopause is the period after the 12 months have passed. Your body produces much lower levels of estrogen and has stopped releasing eggs altogether. These lower levels of estrogen can have a poor effect on your body. Estrogen plays a protective role in your heart’s health. It also keeps your bones strong.

The hormonal and psychological changes of menopause can result in treatable symptoms. The risks for heart disease and osteoporosis are more common after menopause due to reduced hormone levels. Bio Identical hormones are available to supplement the estrogen your body is lacking. The discomfort of the hot flashes is also treatable.

Some women view the end of their childbearing years with sadness and dismay. A happier slant to put on the situation is that menopause is a time of increased freedom without the worry of becoming pregnant or the prospect of your period showing up at an inconvenient time. It is not the end of your sexuality nor does it make you any less feminine. It is estimated the majority of American women will live at least one third of their life beyond menopause.

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