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 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 1-2 million egg cells. When a woman reaches puberty, only about 300,000-400,000 remain. However, not all of them will be ovulated. The follicles are depleted at a rate of around 1000 follicles per month until age 35.
In fact, in a woman’s reproductive lifetime, only 300 to 400 eggs cells will mature and be released.
The limited number of egg cells along with the decreased production of the hormone estrogen cause menopause to set in.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
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.