We were fortunate to connect with Nicole Schroeder, MSW, one of BRIA’s resident menopause experts, to dig deep into all topics related to the menopause transition.
BRIA: What is the definition of menopause?
Nicole: When ovaries start to function less and no longer release eggs, this leads to low estrogen in the body. Then, menstrual periods slow down and eventually stop. Menopause is diagnosed after 12 months without a period. It is a “retrospective diagnosis”, meaning that it is only made with hindsight.
The average age for menopause is 51.5 years old. Ninety percent of women experience menopause at some point between 45 and 55 years of age. Five percent have early menopause, between 40 and 45 years of age. Those who have “premature ovarian insufficiency” experience menopause prior to the age of 40.
BRIA: What is the definition of perimenopause?
Nicole: Perimenopause is the time that precedes menopause. It may last up to 10 years before a person has their last period. It is characterized by fluctuating hormones, cycle irregularity, and on and off menopausal symptoms.
BRIA: What are the different causes of Menopause?
Nicole: “Natural Menopause” is what happens when menstruation spontaneously ends.
“Surgical menopause” refers to the immediate onset of menopause after the removal of ovaries by surgery. For those who have surgical menopause, symptoms may be more frequent and severe than in “natural” menopause because there is no ovarian production once they are removed, whereas, in “natural” menopause, the ovaries still produce a small amount of estrogen even in menopause. For those who have “Premature Ovarian Insufficiency” (POI) menopause stops before the age of 40. For 30% of people, this is due to autoimmune issues, 20% have “iatrogenic” POI, meaning it is induced by medical procedures, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. And 5-10% of people have POI due to genetic factors.