A.Vogel Blog

The Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle controls ovulation and the monthly period

In this page, our menopause expert Eileen Durward explains the relationship between the female menstrual cycle and menopause, exploring the impact that menopause can have upon a woman’s periods, and the underlying hormonal factors behind each phase.

An introduction to menstrual cycle and menopause

Control of a woman’s monthly cycle originates in a part of the brain known as the pituitary gland. This produces two hormones which act on the female reproductive organs to perform two main tasks:

  • They cause the ovaries to produce and secrete an egg each month
  • They thicken the lining of the womb preparing it to feed the fertilised egg

At a certain time of the month, an egg is released from the ovaries – this is known as ovulation. The egg then travels into the womb where it looks for a handsome sperm, hoping to be fertilised. When this happens, the fertilised egg embeds itself into the prepared womb lining to be nurtured by the womb. This will be the start of a new life.

However, if the egg is not fertilised after a few days, it dies. The thickened lining of the womb is then not required, it starts to disintegrate and is shed from the womb approximately 14 days after ovulation. This is what a woman will experience as the monthly period or menstruation.

The lining of the womb then goes through the cycle again, producing a fresh layer of cells in the hope of receiving a fertilised egg the following month.

The menstrual cycle and PMS

PMS (the premenstrual syndrome) is a set of symptoms experienced by women each month, coinciding with certain points of the menstrual cycle.

Symptoms are varied and 150 have been described. They are either physical (period or breast pain, bloating, weight gain) or psychological (low mood, increased feelings of stress and anxiety).

These same symptoms may also be experienced ‘premenstrually’ by women not suffering from PMS just before menstrual bleeding starts. In these situations, symptoms are mild and transient (lasting a few hours). PMS is considered to be the cause only if symptoms are troublesome enough to interfere with quality of life and normal daily function.

Women suffering PMS report a distinct pattern where symptoms appear between the time of ovulation and disappear soon after menstrual bleeding starts. If symptoms persist throughout the month, it is unlikely to be related to PMS.

PMS may affect any menstruating woman. It stops during pregnancy, whilst on the oral contraceptive pill and with the menopause. However, in women coming up to the time of menopause, there may be a period lasting up to a few years when she might feel increasingly troubled by PMS.

The menstrual cycle and menopause

As a woman approaches the menopause, it is not uncommon for the menstrual cycle to become irregular or for menstrual bleeding to be heavier. These symptoms can be experienced up to a few years before periods finally stop and is known as the peri-menopause.

As a woman becomes older, childbearing becomes more risky for both mother and child and nature has a way of telling the body that it is not as fit as it once was, especially for the important task of carrying a child.

Production of the pituitary hormones decline and become erratic, leading to irregular periods. The ovaries become less responsive and they eventually stop releasing eggs. The regular thickening of the lining of the womb becomes redundant and with a reduction of both oestrogen and progesterone, periods stop.

In this way, menopause signals the end of a woman’s reproductive career!

The decline in hormone levels during the menopause and peri-menopausal period can give rise to a variety of menopause symptoms, including hot flushes and night sweats.

A.Vogel’s Menopause Mondays: Pregnancy & Empty Nest Syndrome – the broody blues of menopause!

This week it’s all about the broody blues of menopause! Suddenly feeling an overwhelming urge to have a baby? Or if you have children, are you feeling down as they become more independent? I explain why you may experience these two very common feelings as you approach or go through the menopause as I take a look at pregnancy and empty nest syndrome at this time.

Missed one? Watch them all on my menopause blog.

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Real women stories

"I was breezing through my menopause"

I was breezing through my menopause, barely aware that anything was happening bar the fact that my... Read the full story

"During my menopause"

During my menopause, the worst symptom I have struggled with is the itchy skin. I could cope with the flushes... Read the full story

"Suffering from very heavy periods..."

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"My periods stopped five years ago"

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TIP: Read why so many women recommend Menopause Support for before, during & after the menopause

How I survived the menopause

What is happening to me? I know I asked this, so if you are asking it too, don’t worry, you are not alone! The menopause can be a daunting, confusing and scary time if you let it be, but as they say, knowledge is power.

I use my personal experience of going through the menopause (and surviving it) to offer support and guidance to help you have a happier, healthier menopause.

I survived the menopause and so can you!

Don't go through the Menopause alone!

Menopause expert Eileen Durward explains the benefits of joining the A.Vogel Menopause Health Hub.

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This week's talking point

HRT 'increases ovarian cancer risk' Well ladies, it's in the news again. According to a recent study, HRT has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women taking it for over 5 years.

Menopause Expert Eileen Durward looks at the medical facts behind the news headlines.

What do you think?

Have you found what you read useful? If so, I would love if you would leave your comment below. Thanks Eileen Durward

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