The date of menopause is considered to be the date of the last period, and a woman is said to have gone through menopause when her last period was at least 12 months before.
Menopause results from a natural process in which a woman stops ovulating, her ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone, and menstruation ceases. Removal of the ovaries can also trigger menopause, which in this case is sometimes referred to as surgical menopause.
Other factors that may cause or contribute to early menopause include:
- Never having been pregnant
- Exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals
- Some forms of treatment for childhood cancer
- Autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus)
- Genetic factors
Oestrogen has a range of effects in the female body, including helping to maintain cardiovascular health, bone density and the moisture levels of the skin. After menopause, the decline in oestrogen means that a woman’s risk of heart disease and osteoporosis increase.