The primary cause of menopause is the natural decline of reproductive hormones. The ovaries start making less and less estrogen and progesterone, and the production of eggs starts to slow. These changes can begin as early as in a woman’s late 30s, and the time of onset, duration, and severity of symptoms varies among each individual. A hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and primary ovarian insufficiency are other possible causes of menopause.
Menopause occurs when there are no longer any functioning eggs in a woman’s ovaries. Each woman is born with a finite number of eggs, and this source becomes depleted with age. As a woman approaches menopause her eggs start to become resistant to the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone is responsible for ovulation, and as a result of this resistance, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, another hormone. Loss of estrogen is believed to be the cause of most of the symptoms of menopause. When menopause occurs between ages 45-55 it is considered “natural”, but premature menopause can occur early because of a hysterectomy (surgical intervention) or from chemotherapy.
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