Menopause is the natural transition to a new liberating phase of life that begins with the end of cyclic functioning of ovaries and also the menstrual periods. Commonly it occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Perimenopause stage comes before menopause, during which there are greater hormonal imbalances and changes. This period is associated with light or heavy menstrual flow, end of fertility, irregular production of estrogens and progesterone, anxiety, depression, weight gain and such other symptoms and discomfort. It is a transitional period from normal menstrual periods to no menstrual periods.
Due to each woman’s different biological structure, lifestyle and place of residence and health characteristics, it is very difficult to exactly predict the time of menopause. Research has indicated that women in Western countries can be expected to enter perimenopause at the age of 47 and have their last menstrual period at the age of 51. However, these figures are not sacrosanct and vary widely. There have been reports of some women who stop menstruating in their 40s, whilst some others have reportedly menstruated through their late 50s. Induced menopause – whether due to surgical removal of ovaries or drug or radiation related – can happen at any age. Around 1 percent of women have premature menopause – a menopause that occurs before the age of 40.
Is there a Genetic link?
Research has suggested a genetic link on the menopause age, wherein it is expected that, around 80% of the time, a woman will experience menopause at roughly the same age as her mother and sister. Though supported by many studies, the genetic link basis remains inconclusive. Smoking has been conclusively proven to effect the menopause age. Smokers are likely to reach menopause about two years earlier than non-smokers. Second hand smoke is also a reason for lowering the menopause age.
Other Associated Factors
Certain other factors such as low body weight, no delivery, never having used birth control pills, history of heart disease and treatment of childhood cancer with pelvic radiation or chemotherapy may be associated with the lowering of menopause age. The menopause age is not affected by the age at which first period occurs.
A survey by The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), in 1996, covered 14,620 ethnically diverse U.S. women aged 40 to 55. The survey after taking into account the effects of smoking and other behavioral variables concluded that Hispanic women experienced menopause about six months earlier than white women and the Japanese women had menopause approximately three months later. The menopause age for Black and Chinese women was same as that of white women.