What exactly is menopause? Why does it happen?
Menopause is a natural part of aging as we know it. Menopause occurs when a woman's estrogen levels decrease, causing the ovaries to stop producing an egg each month. This marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycle.
However, due to technological and medical advances in sciences, women are living so much longer compared to 100 years ago and more. Evolution takes about a million years to change anything naturally, so women were really meant to live only as long as their ovaries functioned, which was somewhere between 45 to 55 years of age.
What are the commonly experienced symptoms associated with menopause?
Each woman is different, and will experience symptoms in varying severity and frequency. However, the symptoms most commonly associated with menopause are:
- Hot flashes - When you experience a hot flash, you might feel like a fever is coming on suddenly. This also leads to frequent sweating in some women. Hot flashes can occur both while you are awake and while you're asleep.
- Osteoporosis - Since estrogen plays a part in protecting bones, a sharp decrease in estrogen can lead to loss of bone mass.
- Whole body fatigue - The changes that take place during menopause are likely to cause extreme exhaustion and fatigue.
- Insomnia - This can be connected to a variety of factors, including hot flashes, night sweats, and changes in mood or onset of anxiety or depression.
- Hair thinning or hair loss - Some women experience hair loss due to fluctuating hormone levels during menopause.
It's important to check in frequently with your healthcare professional to monitor symptoms.
How does reproduction play a part in menopause?
The ovaries have two main reproductive functions in the body and they are to produce eggs for fertilization, and to produce the reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Humans are the only mammal so far who live beyond their reproductive function. Of course now there are studies of neurosurgery on pets, and we will probably find the result of natural menopause on cats, dogs and horses. So right now we are the only mammal who has a longer life expectancy post-menopause.
Taking all of that into consideration, in technical terms, menopause is not really a natural part of aging, but it is what happens from extending our life expectancy so much so that women weren’t really meant to live without any estrogen production. After all, that’s what is vital in menses and reproduction.
The bottom line
Because life expectancy has gone up so much, most women will live at least a third of their life after menopause, while others will live half their life after menopause. Yes, menopause is a big deal if you are symptomatic, and many women will live fine without their ovarian hormones.
With that being said, many women also cannot live normally without their ovarian hormones producing, so that is what has to be differentiated. It could be a big deal, or it might not be a big deal, depending on the individual patient's condition, needs, and symptoms. Everyone is different and everyone experiences this at different times. Although menopause is a universal phenomenon among women, each patient must be individually assessed.