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Menopause

The time of life when a woman's ovaries stop producing hormones and menstrual periods stop. Natural menopause usually occurs around age 50. A woman is said to be in menopause when she hasn't had a period for 12 months in a row.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Menopause

The balance of hormones in a woman's body changes during menopause. A lot of processes in the body are regulated by hormones, and it can take some time to adapt to the changes. The hormonal changes are sometimes, but not always, associated with menopause symptoms. This varies greatly from woman to woman.

Around their mid-forties, women's bodies gradually start making less of the female sex hormone estrogen (also spelt "oestrogen"). Their monthly periods become less regular and eventually stop completely. A woman has reached menopause when she has had her last period. The word "menopause" might be misleading because it is not a "pause," but an ending. Women can no longer get pregnant after menopause. The average age of menopause is 51. But it is also normal at a much younger or older age.

The end of fertility often happens around the same time as other important changes in a woman's life:... Read more about Menopause

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Hormone therapy for women with endometriosis and surgical menopause

Endometriosis is known to result in variable severity of symptoms. For some women bilateral removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) with or without an hysterectomy may be required to manage symptoms. This brings women into premature menopause. It is thought that hormone replacement therapy may enhance the recurrence of the disease due to its effect on the remaining endometriotic deposits in the pelvis. Only two small randomised controlled were identified in the literature that looked at this problem. Further research is required to clarify the effect of different hormone replacement therapy types on the recurrence of the disease and the associated pain including during sex.

Hormone replacement therapy has no effect on body weight and cannot prevent weight gain at menopause.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to reduce the symptoms of menopause and bone loss after menopause. Some women decline to take HRT because they believe it causes weight gain. The review of trials found no evidence that unopposed oestrogen and combined oestrogen and progestogen have an effect on body weight additional to that usually gained at the time of menopause. The review did not find any evidence that HRT prevents weight gain experienced at menopause.

Oral hormone therapies help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes and night sweats caused by menopause.

Hot flushes and night sweats are common symptoms around the menopause (the end of menstrual periods in a woman's life). During menopause there is a major reduction in sex hormones produced by the ovaries that cause these symptoms. The review of scientifically well conducted trials found that taking oral oestrogen or combined oestrogen and progestogen hormone replacement therapy greatly reduces the frequency and severity of these symptoms. This effect was significantly greater than the reduction of symptoms seen with placebo (dummy tablets) over time. No adverse effects were found but as the trials were only short term, more research is needed.

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Summaries for consumers

Hormone therapy for women with endometriosis and surgical menopause

Endometriosis is known to result in variable severity of symptoms. For some women bilateral removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) with or without an hysterectomy may be required to manage symptoms. This brings women into premature menopause. It is thought that hormone replacement therapy may enhance the recurrence of the disease due to its effect on the remaining endometriotic deposits in the pelvis. Only two small randomised controlled were identified in the literature that looked at this problem. Further research is required to clarify the effect of different hormone replacement therapy types on the recurrence of the disease and the associated pain including during sex.

Hormone replacement therapy has no effect on body weight and cannot prevent weight gain at menopause.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to reduce the symptoms of menopause and bone loss after menopause. Some women decline to take HRT because they believe it causes weight gain. The review of trials found no evidence that unopposed oestrogen and combined oestrogen and progestogen have an effect on body weight additional to that usually gained at the time of menopause. The review did not find any evidence that HRT prevents weight gain experienced at menopause.

Oral hormone therapies help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes and night sweats caused by menopause.

Hot flushes and night sweats are common symptoms around the menopause (the end of menstrual periods in a woman's life). During menopause there is a major reduction in sex hormones produced by the ovaries that cause these symptoms. The review of scientifically well conducted trials found that taking oral oestrogen or combined oestrogen and progestogen hormone replacement therapy greatly reduces the frequency and severity of these symptoms. This effect was significantly greater than the reduction of symptoms seen with placebo (dummy tablets) over time. No adverse effects were found but as the trials were only short term, more research is needed.

See all (85)

Terms to know

Estrogen
A type of hormone made by the body that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristics and the growth of long bones. Estrogens can also be made in the laboratory. They may be used as a type of birth control and to treat symptoms of menopause, menstrual disorders, osteoporosis, and other conditions.
Hormones
A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells other cells when to use glucose for energy. Synthetic hormones, made for use as medicines, can be the same or different from those made in the body.
Hot Flashes
A sudden, temporary onset of body warmth, flushing, and sweating (often associated with menopause).
Ovaries
The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus.
Periods (Menstruation)
Periodic discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus. From puberty until menopause, menstruation occurs about every 28 days when a woman is not pregnant.

More about Menopause

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Climacteric, Menopausal state, Climacteric state, Menopausal

Other terms to know: See all 5
Estrogen, Hormones, Hot Flashes

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Wellbeing During Menopause

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