wasn't sure what to expect with menopause, although I certainly
looked forward to not having my period anymore. I have to admit,
I'm concerned about how my body will change. My mother never
talked about menopause. She says her mother never did either,
probably because then it was linked to old age and poor health.
Now, you hear about it all the time. The "baby boom"
generation is making menopause a big issue because of their sheer
numbers, and because they'll live with it much longer than their
grandmothers did. Back then, menopause did come near the end of
life. Now I'm going through it, but I feel like I still have my
whole life ahead of me.
one third of the women in the United States, about 36 million,
have been through menopause. With a life expectancy of about 81
years, a 50-year-old woman can expect to live more than one third
of her life after menopause. Scientific research is just beginning
to address some of the unanswered questions about these years and
about the poorly understood biology of menopause.
Menopause is the point in a woman's life when
menstruation stops permanently, signifying the end of her ability
to have children. Known as the "change of life,"
menopause is the last stage of a gradual biological process in
which the ovaries reduce their production of female sex
hormones--a process which begins about 3 to 5 years before the
final menstrual period. This transitional phase is called the
climacteric, or perimenopause. Menopause is considered complete
when a woman has been without periods for 1 year. On average, this
occurs at about age 50. But like the beginning of menstruation in
adolescence, timing varies from person to person. Cigarette
smokers tend to reach menopause earlier than nonsmokers.
Female Reproductive System
menopause (left): The detail of the ovary shows the
release of the egg into the fallopian tube.
menopause (right): Notice thinning and shrinking of
tissues from decreased estrogen and progesterone
W.Utian and R.Jacobowitz, Managing Your Menopause, New
York: Prentice Hall Press/Simon & Shuster, 1990, p.26.