October 14, 2021
What Actually Happens to our Hormones During Menopause?
So what exactly is menopause?
Menopause is actually diagnosed retrospectively and it refers to the end of menstruation. It’s said to have occurred when a person no longer has a period for greater than 12 months. Menopause is broken up into a few key stages. These include perimenopause, which is the first stage in the process. This refers to a time which leads up to menopause where changes are beginning to occur with menstrual periods and your body as it begins to adapt to different levels of hormones. The symptoms you experience are all part of your body's adjustment to these changes. Menopause is the point where one no longer experiences menstrual periods for at least 12 months. Post-menopause is the stage after menopause. The length of each stage of the menopause transition can vary for each individual. Perimenopause may only last for a few months, while others can experience it for many years. Menopause roughly occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 and is considered a natural and normal part of aging. But for some people they may experience early menopause as a result of surgical intervention (e.g. removal of ovaries) or even damage to the ovaries through interventions such as chemotherapy. Menopause that does occur before the age of 45, regardless of the cause, is called early menopause.
What goes on inside the body?
As menopause begins, the body starts to undergo major hormonal changes. In particular, decreasing the amount of hormones it makes, especially oestrogen and progesterone. Both these hormones are produced by the ovaries. Let’s delve into what these hormones do!
The hormone oestrogen
Oestrogen has many functions in the body, including maintaining regular menstrual cycles, heart health, brain health, bone strength, cholesterol levels, weight, fatigue, and even one's mood.
There are three types of oestrogen produced at different phases in a woman's life, and these include:
- Oestradiol: Both males and females actually produce estradiol, and it's the most common type of estrogen in females during reproductive years.
- Oestriol: Produced mainly during pregnancy.
- Oestrone. Produced by the adrenal glands and fatty tissue, and is the only type of estrogen that's produced after menopause.
The hormone progesterone
Progesterone (often called the pregnancy hormone) is produced in the corpus luteum in the ovaries. During reproductive years, progesterone influences the preparation of the uterus for possible pregnancy. Progesterone decreases towards menopause, and this is because progesterone is produced only if an egg is released during ovulation. The release of progesterone usually prepares the uterus for a fertilised egg and for pregnancy. With menopause, ovulation stops and so progesterone levels drop.
With these changes in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, you may begin to experience stronger physical symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, changes to your mood, and even poor sleep. You also begin to undergo some physiological changes which we will be discussing in our next blog.
If you have any questions regarding menopause and how exercise physiology can help, don't hesitate to contact us here at Health in Balance.