The menopause is the time when a woman's periods stop and her ovaries stop releasing eggs. A woman is considered menopausal once she has gone twelve months without having a menstrual period. Therefore the exact time of a woman's final menstrual period can only be pinpointed by counting backwards after the fact.
Although most women go through menopause around age 50, normal menopause can happen any time between the age of 40 and 50. The last periods are usually more irregular and have less blood flow.
The menopause is a normal part of the aging process. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are hormones secreted by the pituitary gland as part of the normal menstrual cycle. They stimulate the ovary to produce oestrogen and progesterone and to release an egg. As a woman gets older, her ovaries don't respond to FSH or LH as well as they used to. Over time, less and less oestrogen and progesterone are produced and the woman stops releasing eggs.
Before her periods stop completely, a woman might experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including hot flushes, irritability, night sweats, loss of bladder control, urinary infection and vaginal dryness. About 75% of women have hot flushes, which go away after a year for most women. During a hot flush, the woman's head and neck will become red and warm, and she may perspire a lot. A hot flush lasts from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and may be followed by a chill.
Low oestrogen levels may cause a woman to feel irritable, tired, and nervous. She might also have trouble sleeping. Headaches, feel dizzy, or a rapid or irregular heartbeat is often described. Lack of oestrogen makes the skin of the vagina thinner, causing vaginal itching or burning or pain during intercourse. The menopause can also cause loss of bladder control and, occasionally, aching muscles and joints.
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