Typically, menopause happens as a part of the natural aging process. A woman is in menopause when she no longer has menstrual flow (including spotting) for 12 months straight. Because of shifts in hormonal levels, a lot of changes happen to a woman once she reaches this stage, such as no longer having the ability to get pregnant. But, why does the menstrual cycle stop at menopause?
A Woman’s Eggs Are Numbered
To answer the question “why does the menstrual cycle stop at menopause?”, we need to consider the fact that is that a woman’s egg cells are numbered.
While men can produce sperm cells all their lives, with their quality and quantity decreasing with age, women are different.
At birth, there are about 1 million egg cells. When a woman reaches puberty, only about 300,000 remain. However, not of all them will be ovulated.
In fact, in a woman’s reproductive lifetime, only 300 to 400 eggs cells will be ovulated.
The limited number of egg cells along with the decreased production of the hormone estrogen cause menopause to set in.
Menopause happens when there is no more pregnancy to prepare for
Each month, a woman’s body prepares for pregnancy. To accommodate the fertilized egg, the lining of the uterus thickens.
However, when fertilization doesn’t happen, the body no longer needs the thickened lining. And so, they are expelled out as blood and other tissues.
Since there are no more eggs to fertilize during menopause, the body doesn’t need the preparation anymore. Hence, bleeding will no longer happen.
Perimenopause happens before Menopause
Now that we have answered the question, why does the menstrual cycle stop at menopause, we can now talk about perimenopause.
The period leading up to a woman’s last menstrual period is called perimenopause, which literally means “around menopause.”
It’s quite a long transition wherein a woman might experience the following:
- Shifts in the hormonal levels; the shift can either producing too much or too little.
- Longer or shorter menstrual period.
- Missed menstrual period; this is because, at perimenopause, a woman doesn’t always ovulate.
- Lighter or heavier flow.
- Menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats.
Perimenopause gives the woman a chance to anticipate menopause.
Some Women Experience Perimenopause Early
Perimenopause can last for years; from a period of 4 to 8 years. This means that while most women experience it in their 40s, some experience the symptoms in their 30s.
However, remember that missed periods can also be a sign of pregnancy. For this reason, women should not be quick to conclude that they are experiencing perimenopause, even if they are in their 40s.
Early Menopause is also Possible
Since early perimenopause is a possibility, early menopause could also happen. Many women experience menopause when they are 48 to 52 years old, but it might happen sooner than expected.
As of now, there are no clear, scientific reasons as to why the menstrual cycle stops early, but some reports indicate two possible reasons for early menopause. These are:
- Never having children. Studies show that pregnancy, especially having more than one child may delay menopause.
- Smoking. Several kinds of research concluded that smoking could make women experience menopause 2 years earlier than non-smokers.
Additionally, women who have certain health conditions, and those undergoing chemotherapy may go through menopause earlier than normal.
Menopause has certain Symptoms
The symptoms of perimenopause often persist when the menstrual cycle stops at menopause, but there are additional symptoms. They are:
- Urinary urgency
- Insomnia or the general difficulty in falling and staying asleep
- Dryness in the skin, eyes, and mouth
- Changes in emotions, such as mood swings, mild depression, and irritability
- Reduced sex drive or libido
- Pains and aches in the joints along with stiffness
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Women can get Treated Due to Menopause
Although the menstrual cycle typically stops due to the normal aging process, some women get treatment for menopause. The treatment often focuses on managing the signs and symptoms, to let the woman continue her day-to-day activities without disruption.
The two treatment options are:
- Hormonal Therapy
- Non-hormonal Therapy
The goal of hormonal therapy is to supplement the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Either a woman takes estrogen hormone alone, or she opts for the combination therapy where she receives both estrogen and progesterone.
Hormone therapy could help relieve symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. At times, it’s also used to stop hair loss and prevent osteoporosis.
Hormonal therapy may be effective for some, but others are more comfortable with non-hormonal management. In this management, a woman makes changes in her diet such as limiting her caffeine intake and avoiding spicy foods. Other things included in non-hormonal therapy are:
- Avoiding triggers of hot flashes, such as thick clothes, warm bedroom, and smoking
- Joining support groups or keeping in touch with family and friends
Women who have underlying conditions or those who got treatment for breast cancer may opt for non-hormonal management than hormonal therapy.
There is Such a Thing as Surgical Menopause
Most women experience menopause naturally, but for others, it’s a result of surgery.
One good example is when a woman undergoes oophorectomy or the operation that removes the ovaries. Immediately after removing both ovaries, the symptoms of menopause will surface.
On the other hand, if a woman undergoes a hysterectomy or the surgery that removes the uterus while preserving her ovaries, the monthly bleeding will stop, but the other menopause symptoms may not show up right away.
Why does the menstrual cycle stop at menopause? The answer is quite simple: hormonal shifts and a limited number of egg cells.
However, menopause is more than just a medical condition. It’s a phase that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years; hence, she needs time and support to acclimate properly.
Learn more about Menopause here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.