The Stages of Menopause
What is ‘typical’ Menopause?
From birth to death humans have a typical hormone blueprint we are set to follow as part of the aging process.
I call this the Hormone Highway.
In people born with ovaries and a uterus, there are two significant time stamps along this Hormone Highway, at either end of the time frame clinically termed reproductive years.
- Menstruation starts (menarche) around the age of puberty
- Menstruation stops permanently (climacteric) = menopause
(Where menopause is the permanent cessation of periods, which is marked when menstruation has not occurred for 12 consecutive months.)
Menopause has often been termed a ‘natural’ part of life. The words ‘of nature’ and ‘natural’ should not be confused with how those words are used in marketing terms perhaps as a soft & gentle skincare product, for example.
Those who experience the permanent cessation of their menstrual cycle due to surgery or treatment via medication for other conditions are plunged into menopause sometimes overnight, it is very far from feeling like a natural or normal part of aging. Hence being mindful of terminology when describing menopause transition is very important.
From a biological perspective we do have to accept that when we read ‘menopause is a natural part of the aging process’, it is in fact correct. From this, we can therefore correlate that the ‘start of menstruation is a natural part of the aging process’.
Therefore it is also quite clear that neither menstruation nor menopause is classed as a disease.
Other types of Menopause
When the permanent stop of periods occurs outside the typical timeframe or for other reasons, this kind of menopause is by no means less significant, it’s simply different and may require additional support and consideration.
Surgical – removal of the ovaries, this may include a partial or total hysterectomy
Medication-induced – treatment for certain conditions like Endometriosis can trigger the stop of periods. Treatment for various types of cancer can switch off the ovaries,
this may or may not be permanent.
Early – the Hormone Highway is shorter in years and reproductive aging occurs earlier.
The key stages of the typical Hormone Highway
Hormonal aging is applicable to all people, male and female. There is a predetermined pattern of hormone activity for humans over time, that allows us to function in different ways at different times in a usual life cycle.
With a female focus on hormonal aging, we refer to it as reproductive aging or ovarian aging (check out this great research doc about ovarian aging in the library). It can be classified into 5 stages:
- Menstruation – periods start at approximately age 11
- Premenopause – menstrual cycle is regular
- Perimenopause – the time leading up to menopause when periods may change
- Menopause (Day) – periods stop permanently, approximately aged 51
- Postmenopause – the moment after Menopause Day
With or without the use of contraception the timeline still applies
NB. The hormones that form part of the menstrual cycle are the same hormones involved in menopausing.
The below image is a visual representation of what the Hormone Highway would be like approximately if it was a typical menstrual health timeline. This image is taken from the slide deck you have access to in the Done for You section.