Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s fertility. It’s triggered by a decline in the production of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones that control menstruation and make pregnancy possible.
The production of these hormones begins to decline sometime in your late 30s, but menopause doesn’t usually occur until a woman reaches her late 40s or early 50s. In the United States, the average age for menopause is 51.
Menopause officially starts 12 months after your final menstrual cycle. For women who undergo a total hysterectomy (surgery that removes the uterus as well as both ovaries), menopause begins without a transitional phase. Although menopause signals the end of your fertility, it doesn’t have to affect your:
During perimenopause, or the time it takes to transition into menopause, you may experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms related to the diminishing levels of reproductive hormones, including:
For some women, the physical symptoms of menopause can lead to lower energy levels or give rise to feelings of sadness and loss.
Yes. Following menopause, you have a greater risk of developing certain health problems. Because the hormonal shifts of menopause can lead to a rapid loss of bone density and increase your risk of bone fractures, osteoporosis is a major concern for postmenopausal women.
Reduced estrogen levels can also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for all adults. Urinary incontinence and significant weight gain are other common health complications linked to menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the supplementation of reproductive hormones that your body is no longer making. It’s used to help address the symptoms and health risks associated with menopause. Low-dose systemic estrogen, which comes in the form of a pill, skin patch, gel, cream, or spray, helps:
Because the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis increases as estrogen levels decline, HRT also helps you protect your heart and bone health during perimenopause and after menopause.