There are two distinct causes of menopause. One is physiological. This means that the woman’s body is approaching and going through the process of menopause for normal and natural reasons. The other is pathological. This means that a woman is experiencing menopause because there is a medical condition that has caused her ovarian function to decline.
Pathological reasons for a woman to experience menopause early, or even in a normal time frame, are reproductive tract tumors, extreme emotional stress, malnutrition, debilitation, radiation and surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy or other procedures that negatively impact the blood supply to the ovaries.
The reason that woman are forced into menopause is because the ovarian function begins to decline and the hormonal support is withdrawn from the body. It is the hormones that control the development and release of the egg, keep the elastin and collagen present in the skin, cause the uterus to build up a supply of blood to support a pregnancy and the myriad of other physical and physiology processes that happen each month.
When the ovarian function declines or ceases then a woman’s body no longer performs these functions and she is thrown into menopause. As the ovaries begin to slow in function she experiences peri-menopausal symptoms.
The same things will happen in physiological menopause. During menopause the changes happen within a normal time frame for women the ovaries begin to decline in function related to age. The hormonal levels begin to decline and a woman will find that her menstrual cycles are no longer predictable, they may be lighter or heavier and they can last longer or be shorter. Nothing seems to be the same any more for her.
During this time women find comfort in the care of a physician and the support of other women who are suffering from the same symptoms. Much of the psychological depression and distress can be alleviated with the support of others who are suffering the same symptoms and who can offer advice about helping those symptoms.
Natural menopause is permanent, gradual and happens over three stages. In the first stage (perimenopause) symptoms begin several years before menopause and will last until the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last one or two years the decrease in estrogen accelerates.
In the next stage, menopause, a woman has her last menstrual period. The ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. Once she has gone for 12 consecutive months without a period a woman is diagnosed with menopause.
The final stage is called postmenopause. These are the years after a woman has had her final period. Most of the menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, ease during this period but the health risks associated with the loss of estrogen increases.
The causes of menopause are commonly normal, however, women who experience the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause prior to age 39 should be fully evaluated by their physician to rule out any potential medical conditions that cause early menopause.