Postmenopause can seem like a mysterious time in life, being the first time in decades that a woman does not have menstrual periods. After having gone through premenopause, perimenopause, and reaching menopause, women enter the last stage of reproductive life. A woman is considered postmenopausal after the point at which she has not had her period for 12 consecutive months.
During postmenopause, hormonal fluctuations might still occur within women's bodies, sometimes prolonging symptoms. Besides hormonal causes, experts have also identified external contributors. Read on to learn about the hormonal and external causes of postmenopause.
Hormonal Causes of Postmenopause
The same hormonal fluctuations that triggered the menopausal process also play an important role during postmenopause.
Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone decline naturally, leading to imbalanced levels and the many uncomfortable symptoms of postmenopause. Although these fluctuations are more severe during the years leading up to menopause, they might continue into the early postmenopause years.
To learn more about the role of hormones in postmenopause, check out the postmenopause and hormones article.
External Causes of Postmenopause
Even though hormonal changes are at the foundation of postmenopause, there are several external factors that can cause a woman to enter postmenopause earlier in life.
Women who smoke and drink heavily often go through the menopause transition earlier and with more difficulty than women who don't. There are also some studies suggesting that diets high in processed foods may make symptoms worse.
Sometimes, women who experience constant periods of stress - due to financial hardships or family disputes, for instance - may undergo the postmenopausal transition earlier.
Women who have both ovaries removed, due to cancer or other health concerns, will experience menopause and postmenopause immediately after the surgery. This sudden hormone depletion can cause an array of postmenopausal symptoms.
Radiation or chemotherapy
These treatments often damage the ovaries, sometimes causing women to begin the menopause transition shortly after, or even while on therapy.
Even though the causes of postmenopause mentioned above are present throughout the menopause process, the bodily functions they affect can differ. To learn about the effects of postmenopause on the body, visit the section about postmenopause symptoms.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2015). Menopause. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/menopause