Menopause is not something that suddenly happens. Around the age of 40, women enter what is known as the Perimenopause stage. Again, there is no biological alarm clock that sets it off at the age of 40. In some it may even start at around 30 or even earlier. In other cases it may start at the age of 45 but the thumb rule is that around 40-45 years of age most women enter into the Perimenopause stage.
The Perimenopause stage
Women enter the Perimenopause stage when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. The ovaries make less estrogen when the quantity of eggs in the ovaries nears its end. You know that your body has probably entered the Perimenopause stage if you experience some of these symptoms:
Worse premenstrual syndrome
Lower sex drive
Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
Coughing or sneezing sometimes leads to urine leakage
Just as it starts gradually, the Peri Menopause stage also ends gradually taking anything from a few months to up to 10 years but the average period is roughly 4 years. You know you have exited the Perimenopause stage when you haven't had your periods for at least 12 months. At this stage your ovaries will have stopped releasing eggs and it also marks the end of the reproductive period.
Just as women enter Perimenopause stage gradually, so too do they enter the menopause stage gradually. Some women might not notice any Signs and Symptoms of Menopause (other than lack of periods). Some women might suffer from night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irritability along with increased anxiety.
Why does Menopause Happen?
All women are born with a certain number of eggs which are stored in the ovaries. Apart from storing the eggs the ovaries also make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones control the menstruation and ovulation cycles. During the reproductive period, the ovaries release an egg every month. As the stock of eggs almost finishes, lesser quantity of hormone is made (and the woman enters Perimenopause). Menopause happens when the stock of eggs is over. At this stage menstruation stops.
Some women can go through menopause early because they might have had a hysterectomy or have suffered damage to the ovaries as a result of chemotherapy. Early menopause symptoms is known as premature menopause.