Menopause is a normal condition that all women experience as they age, marking the end of her reproductive or childbearing years. This transitional process usually is gradual and often takes a number of years.
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs, which are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries also produce the hormone estrogen, which regulates menstruation and ovulation. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen, and menstruation stops. Menopause is diagnosed when a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
On average, menopause occurs at about age 51, but it can happen as early as 30 or 40. It all depends on an individual's body, health, medical background and family history.
Natural vs. Surgical Menopause
Doctors generally divide menopause into two types: "natural" and "surgical." Natural menopause is the permanent ending of menstruation that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment.
Surgical menopause is brought about abruptly when both ovaries are removed. The ovaries are the main source of the hormones estrogen and testosterone in the body. Since these surgeries dramatically end ovarian function, estrogen and testosterone levels drop suddenly. Women who have had both ovaries surgically removed may be hit harder by menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and low sexual desire and activity, than those who experience menopause naturally.