Menopause is one of the major milestones in a woman's life. It can bring about emotions like anxiety, panic, depression and the hollow feeling that the best years of our life now lie behind us.
These are normal feelings and in actuality, armed with the knowledge of what to expect from menopause and how to best deal with it, going through the menopause need not be traumatic.
The menopause usually sets in around the age of fifty - a woman's biological clock will stop ticking and this in itself signals the end of her fertile years and the loss of the oestrogen and progesterone. In a nutshell, at around age fifty, a woman's ovaries just run out of follicles (eggs). The follicles are responsible for producing most of the oestrogen and all of the progesterone in a woman's body.
The word 'menopause' itself means the stopping of menstrual bleeding. When this stops, it is also a sign that the production of oestrogen has fallen to reduced levels. This is caused by the ovaries being unable to produce the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
The first symptoms of menopause tend to be the onset of hot flushes (also referred to as hot flashes in the US). These can affect up to 80% of menopausal women. When a woman has a hot flush it makes her feel extremely hot and flustered. They can also be associated with a feeling of dizziness, heart palpitations and itchy sensations under the skin.
Hot flushes are caused by the body's thermostat (which is controlled by the hypothalamus) not being able to function properly when it is deprived of oestrogen.
Other signs of impending menopause are:
Above: Breton Eve by Paul Gauguin 1889