Understanding Menopause: Symptoms and Causes

Understanding Menopause: Symptoms and Causes

Understanding Menopause: Symptoms and Causes

27 May 2024- Menopause stands as a significant transition in a woman’s life, signalling the end of her reproductive years. It is a natural biological process, yet it can bring about a range of physical and emotional symptoms. Understanding these symptoms and the underlying causes can help women navigate this stage with greater ease and confidence.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is defined as the point in time when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. On average, menopause occurs around age 51, although it can happen earlier or later. It is a normal part of ageing and signifies the end of the ovaries’ reproductive function.

The Menopausal Transition: Perimenopause

The journey to menopause begins with perimenopause, a phase that can start as early as eight to ten years before menopause. During perimenopause, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen, leading to changes in the menstrual cycle and the onset of various symptoms. Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s 40s and lasts until menopause. The last one to two years of perimenopause often sees a more rapid decline in estrogen levels, intensifying symptoms.

Symptoms of Menopause

The signs and symptoms of menopause can vary widely among women. Common symptoms include:

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Hot flashes, also known as vasomotor symptoms, are sudden feelings of warmth that spread over the body, often with sweating. Night sweats are hot flashes that occur during sleep, leading to disturbed rest.

Irregular Periods

During perimenopause, menstrual cycles become irregular. Periods may be shorter or longer, heavier or lighter, and eventually, they cease altogether.

Sleep Disturbances

Many women experience insomnia or difficulty sleeping due to hot flashes, night sweats, or other hormonal changes.

Mood Changes

Hormonal fluctuations can result in mood swings, irritability, and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.

Physical Changes

Women may notice changes in their bodies, such as weight gain, thinning hair, dry skin, and a decrease in breast fullness.

Urinary Issues

A decrease in estrogen can lead to urinary urgency, incontinence, or an increased risk of urinary tract infections.

Why Does Menopause Happen?

Menopause is a natural part of ageing, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years. The primary cause is the decline in the function of the ovaries, which produce eggs and the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate the menstrual cycle and support pregnancy. As the ovaries age, their hormone production decreases, leading to the cessation of menstruation and the onset of menopausal symptoms.

Genetic and Environmental Factors

The age at which menopause occurs can be influenced by genetic factors, meaning it may be similar to the age at which a woman’s mother or sisters experienced menopause. Environmental factors, such as smoking and chemotherapy, can also affect the timing of menopause.

Postmenopause: Life After Menopause

The postmenopausal stage begins once a woman has gone a full year without a menstrual period. During this time, many of the acute symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, may subside. However, the decline in estrogen can have long-term effects, such as an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Postmenopausal women need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine medical check-ups, to manage these risks.


Menopause is a natural and inevitable part of ageing for women. While it brings about various physical and emotional changes, understanding the symptoms and causes can help women prepare and manage this transition more effectively.

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