Menopause is a natural process in women that cannot be delayed. Many women feel that if they could only put off menopause, they could delay the aging process altogether. This idea stems from our preconceptions about menopause — that once we go through “the change” and become postmenopausal that we are officially old. Yet we don’t believe this is true at all. Women are now living well into their 80’s, 90’s and even into their 100’s, so menopause is much more a rite of passage for the middle-aged than for the elderly. Just because your childbearing years have ended certainly doesn’t mean your life has to! In fact, many women go on to accomplish their life-long goals and make some of their greatest contributions after menopause.
Strictly defined, menopause is ushered in when a woman has gone 12 months without having a period. During the months and years leading up to menopause, you will ovulate less regularly until your period stops altogether. It’s been a long-held notion that we are born with close to 2 million egg-producing follicles, and that by the time puberty hits, that number goes down to around 400,000 and gradually declines until menopause. However, new research is pointing to the fact that stem cells may dictate this timeline rather than a set quantity of eggs. But this is still being unraveled, so stay tuned.
Once we reach menopause, we are no longer able to release fertilizable eggs, and the hormones produced by the ovaries eventually decline. This diminution of ovarian function is not something that can be prevented at this time. It is a natural physiological process that has occurred in women for generations upon generations.
There are data showing trends in the ages at which women enter menopause. For example, there is a tendency for women to enter menopause at around the same time other women in their family have, and on a global scale, statistics show that women with suboptimal nutrition enter menopause earlier than those who are well nourished.
So, although there are no known ways to delay menopause per se, we can lessen the chances of entering it prematurely and lessen the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause when they arise. By taking care of ourselves nutritionally, hormonally and emotionally, we can better maintain hormonal balance and minimize many of the disruptive symptoms that arise during this transition.
We suggest that instead of fighting your body’s natural rhythm, you can try to find some kind of balance with it. You may find it helpful to examine your feelings about menopause and look at where your uneasiness stems from. Are these negative feelings truly coming from within you? Or are they coming from what society is telling you?