Hormone changes can make change of life challenging
June 22, 2010
By SHARON CHAYRA
So well-known are the changes surrounding menopause that there is even a hit Strip show called “Menopause the Musical.” It does quite well, not surprisingly, with both women and men. As the lead characters sing and dance about everything from incontinence to insomnia. And the “Sex in the City” franchise highlights the struggle of its most libidinous character, Samantha, as she contends with hot flashes and moodiness during the change of life.
With all the attention placed on this transition, it makes one wonder why menopause is still so misunderstood, even in medical circles. One physician interviewed for this article glibly said, “What’s to tell? Bleeding stops, crabbiness starts — or gets worse.”
“There’s a lot of misinformation about menopause,” says Dr. Daliah Wachs, a practicing physician and radio show host. “Going through menopause is perfectly normal and it must seem scary to observers, but even the many changes a woman experiences are usually perfectly normal. I spend a lot of time reassuring patients and their partners because they can be confused and concerned, but it’s all manageable.”
Menopause is clinically defined as the final menstrual period, which can be confirmed after going 12 consecutive months without a period. It is a natural event associated with reduced functioning of the ovaries resulting from lower levels of ovarian hormones, primarily estrogen. This also signifies the permanent end of fertility.
What causes menopause? The natural decline of reproductive hormones is one of the main reasons. As a woman approach her late 30s, her ovaries start making less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate menstruation. During this time, fewer potential eggs are ripening in her ovaries each month, and ovulation is less predictable. Also, the post-ovulation surge in progesterone, the hormone that prepares her body for pregnancy, becomes less dramatic. Her fertility begins to decline, partially due to these hormonal effects.