My mom is finishing up her menopause right now, so most of what I know is from reading her menopamplets and watching her freak out. Menopause, a more STDesque name for it is climacteric, is when a woman's ovaries slow down their estrogen and progesterone production.  A woman's ovaries stop producing eggs and the woman stops getting her period (This part my mom seems to like). Before you get full blown menopause you go through perimenopause, which lasts 5-10 years. With peri you miss a period here and there, get the night sweats and hot flashes of menopause, but it's not as severe. When my mom was just beginning peri she wasn't sure if she was just crazy or really was starting "the change" so I used to secretly turn on the bum heater in the car and then watch as she tried to calm herself down and not get upset about the hot flashes. It was so funny, even she thought it was funny. The part she didn't find funny was when menopause really kicked in. You know it's menopause when you have not had a period for 12 months. The mood changes were drastic and really upsetting for her and since her menopause was pretty rough she had to have her ovaries removed. Without the estrogen your skin loses elasticity and starts to wrinkle and sag. Your bones get brittle and osteoporosis becomes an issue. Different women suffer in different ways, regardless, it's definetly a tough time. A time to put up with mom's/wife's hormonal insanity.

since i was talking about my mom I didn't mention any of the vaginal dryness kinda stuff, but ya, it seems that happens also.

Menopause is a natural biological part of women's aging, not a disease marked by estrogen deficiency. The generally accepted medical definition of natural menopause puts it at a point in time twelve months after a woman's final menstrual period. Thus menopause marks the end of her natural reproductive life; her ovaries have naturally slowed their estrogen production to a level at which ovulation and conception are no longer possible. Notice that menopause can only be identified retrospectively, after one year without menstruation; there is no independent biological marker of menopause.

The average age of menopause in the western world is about 51, but it can and does occur anywhere between about 42 and 58 years of age.

Menopause can also be induced by medical procedures. Women who undergo hysterectomy - a very common procedure in western countries - are said to have had surgical menopause. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy performed to treat conditions such as ovarian cancer will also induce menopause. Induced menopause can occur at any time during a woman's reproductive years.

Although menopause itself is a point in time, the entire process of "reproductive aging" is understood to take place over 15 years or so. First is premenopause, then perimenopause or climacteric (which may last for up to five years, till menopause itself), then the menopausal transition (basically the last period and the following 12 months), then the Big Event, and finally postmenopause, which continues until death. As the population ages, women are living a third of their lives in their postmenopausal years, a dramatic change from the situation in the past.

Menopause may occur naturally and easily, or it may be marked by symptoms so severe that they require medical treatment. The most common complaints are hot flashes, which are sudden and rather intense waves of heat and sweating that can disrupt sleep. Menstrual periods become irregular, and women may find themselves more suseptible to vaginal infections. They may experience dryness of the vagina which can make intercourse painful. Incontinence joins this happy list, along with mood swings, weight gain, and lack of interest in sex. About 75% of women in the west report symptoms of varying severity, but women in other cultures often have no symptoms at all.

Such experiential differences are not surprising: we live in sociocultural contexts which affect how we experience our bodies. Menopause in the west is associated with aging and loss of youth; women in cultures which respect age often experience menopause as a positive rather than a negative transition.

In addition, in the west menopause has been medicalized, as have so many other aspects of women's health, and so this natural process has been viewed as a disease which must be treated. One of the more popular treatments is the badly named hormone replacement therapy; a large randomized control trial has recently shown that this therapy increases the risk of breast cancer and heart disease and thus can cause substantial harm to some women. Some women find relief throught naturopathic treatments such as dong quai, homeopathy, soy products, and acupuncture, though most western-trained doctors will hasten to tell you that the effects are not proven. But neither was HRT, and I suspect the side effects tofu consumption will be a lot more benign.

Although there has been much talk of male menopause, the naturally occuring process whereby testosterone levels drop should be referred to andropause, not menopause. Menopause is related to the word menstruation.

Sources include: on how menopause is defined on cultural differences in the experience of menopause on andropause

No other mammals studied (with the possible exception of pilot whales) are known to commonly cease their reproductive abilities in nature.

One of the theories of why human females go through menopause is called the ‘grandmother hypothesis’. This theory can also account (if not partially, almost fully) for the evolution of the human species.
We are unique in that we do not reproduce up until we die, like our ancestor apes. Apes- the older they become the more likely it is for them to die during child birth. With the onset of menopause this is humans is reduced. The human female goes through menopause at about the age of 40-50 years old, when dying during child birth becomes much more dangerous. With her reproductive abilities put to a halt, the wisdom and knowledge that has been accumulated is put to use, to be passed onto younger humans. This allows the mothers to put more time into their children and to watch their children grow up and have children of their own. During this time after menopause the mothers would have been reproductively better off helping their children (who shared their genes) than they would have been reproducing themselves. This all boosts the survival of the species.

Menopause has helped us to evolve to become who we are today.

Of course, this is all just a theory, and there are people who don’t agree.

Lerner, M. Is there evolutionary reason for menopause? Star Tribune 1998 April 23 says that:
"Study concludes that recent theories on menopause--that it allows grandmothers to help raise the younger kin and therefore boost the survival of the species--is wrong and that there is no reason for menopause. The study is based on research with lions and baboons."

Sources and for more information:

I am a family doctor but I am also a natural generalist. I thought about graduate school but was dating a zoologist who was one of the three world experts on honeybee behavior and I thought that I really did not care to get that in depth in ANYTHING. So I'm a rural family practice doc, do obstetrics and my patients range from birth to 104 currently. I learn stuff all the time.

Being curious about everything, I have wondered why women go through menopause and have collected bits of evidence. Then one day, a theory popped into my head. It's as if all the little pieces suddenly rearrange and form a picture.

Here are some of the bits that contributed:

Women go through menopause but men don't. Why?
Women often gain weight after menopause.
Women often complain of decreased libido after menopause.
An 80 year old man has more estrogen than an 80 year old woman because estrogen is a byproduct of testosterone.
Type II diabetes is common in postmenopausal women.
Type II diabetes is not caused by weight gain but by our bodies making a protein called amylase which is deposited in the Islet cells of the Pancreas until the person no longer makes enough insulin and suddenly has diabetes, which gets worse over time. They keep making the amylase.
Postmenopausal women survive famines best.
There is more type II diabetes in Hispanic, Inuit, Native American and African folks than other ethnic groups.
Women multitask more easily than men and are less linear thinkers. In studies where people watch a video and have to describe it, men describe what happened, in general, more linearly while women, in general, notice all sorts of details and gestalt.
People in Africa who have one gene for sickle cell anemia resist malaria better than those with none, so sickle cell sticks around. What's the advantage of menopause?

Ok, so it's either Intelligent Design or evolution. Why?

My theory is that women are the brains of the tribe. They go through menopause so they can stop having babies and attend to the needs of the tribe. They gain weight and maybe get diabetes in order to survive the next famine. If a guy survives into his 80s then he can still reproduce, and perhaps that used to be good for the tribe. Women, however, have to stay alive in order to teach and raise the next generation, so they don't go chasing the mammoths.

My thought is that someday men may evolve more highly and have their hormones stop when they get old enough. This is a thought that pleases me and really offends my 16 year old son. Oh, well, he just can't think straight with all that damn testosterone.

rootbeer277 says re Why women go through menopause: This is called the Grandmother hypothesis. Would you mind if I changed the title to this?

dang, I didn't come up with it first. See wikipedia. And here.

Men"o*pause (?), n. [Gr. month + to cause to cease. See Menses.] Med.

The period of natural cessation of menstruation. See Change of life, under Change.


© Webster 1913.

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