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Menopause: The end of a woman’s natural fertility lifespan

Women’s reproductive lifespan begins in puberty with the onset of menarche, and ends with menopause – the time in a woman’s life when menstruation permanently ends. Perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) is a natural biological process when a woman’s body goes through numerous physiological and hormonal changes that ultimately affect her fertility. Most women begin to experience perimenopause in their 40s and menopause in their 50s. Once a woman has not had a menstrual period for one full year, menopause is considered complete. When this happens, on average around age 51, women are no longer fertile and are incapable of getting pregnant using their own eggs.

In the years leading up to menopause, fewer hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are produced. Changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle typically indicate the start of the perimenopause, due to this natural decrease in hormone levels. In addition, a woman’s ovaries stop producing and releasing eggs. Other symptoms that commonly occur during menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, sleep disturbances, memory loss, mood swings, decreased energy, and less interest in sexual activity. The severity and duration of menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. Typically they subside after a several months, but a small percentage of women experience symptoms for years.

There are many different natural, alternative and traditional medical treatments available to help women cope with uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. However, the appropriateness of these treatments varies depending on each woman’s symptoms, unique medical history and genetic make-up. For example, women with a high risk of developing heart disease, strokes, and breast cancer may not be a good candidate for hormonal treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

If you think you are starting to go through menopause, or are having difficulty with the transition, consult with your doctor.

Read more about menopause here.

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