Women reach natural menopause when they exhaust their supply of follicles in the ovary. No follicles, no ovulation thus you have entered menopause, a natural stage of a woman's life. This seems simple enough to apprehend, yet there is confusion surrounding the subject of menopause. Understanding a woman's reproductive life can help eliminate the confusion of menopause. A woman's reproductive life begins with puberty and includes the premenopause, perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause stages.
Puberty occurs when a female first menstrates which marks the beginning of her reproductive years. During the reproductive years, estrogen and progesterone work in conjunction so that a woman may become pregnant. Estrogen helps maintain pregnancy and stimulates the vital process of fetal maturation while progesterone's primary function is to maintain the lining of the uterus during early pregnancy. Testosterone, is also produced in women at this time. It has different functions, but for this point it needs only to be recognized that it increases a woman's libido. The premenopause stage is best defined as a time of "normal" reproductive function in a woman. This chapter of a woman's life can last into her late 40's.
Perimenopause means "around menopause". The perimenopausal stage is caused by a fluctuation in hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. As the body ages, these hormones decrease creating perimenopausal symptoms. This is a transitional phase of 2 to 8 years before menopause, however women can experience perimenopausal symptoms 10 to 15 years prior to menopause. The first symptoms that occur from fluctuating hormones are usually irregular periods, sleep disturbances, hot flashes and night sweats. However, women can experience additional symptoms like mood swings, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, headaches, general irritability, low energy, weight gain in spite of exercise, poor focus and concentration, insomnia and depression.
The technical definition of menopause is when a woman ceases to have a period or menses for 12 consecutive months. Some women who have reached menopause still menstrate. Diagnosing menopause can be easily achieved by a blood test measuring for the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). When FSH is very high, it reveals that your body isn't producing enough estrogen and signifies that you have entered menopause. At this point, a woman is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The average age for menopause is 52, but it can occur as early as a woman's 30's or as late as her 60's.
Post menopausal years start after menopause (the 12th consecutive month without a period). Women who still menstrate into their later years should be tested to see if they have entered menopause and reached their post-menopausal years. Women can also be forced into post-menopausal years by surgically removing their ovaries or by some cancer treatments.
Now that you understand menopause, avoid it! Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy relieves menopausal symptoms and it optimizes the aging process by safely restoring the normal balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Menopausal symptoms don't just go away themselves. Unless you take action, the quality of your health and your lifestyle may continue to worsen. Treating these symptoms safely requires the use of bioidentical hormones.


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