Listen, as Dr. Sarrel describes menopause.
Menopause is a natural life event. It represents the moment of transition for a woman from the reproductive phase of her life, to the post-reproductive phase. It does mean she can no longer get pregnant. What’s happened is, her ovaries have run out of eggs. Now the reason why there’s so much attention, it’s not an issue of, not many people in their 50s want to get pregnant, the issue is that around the reproductive process, the whole process of being able to become pregnant, hormones are produced by the ovaries, and there are very special cells. Everything, by the way, starts with cholesterol.
So, you eat cholesterol, and your ovaries convert it into hormones, and the hormones that are very important are called estrogens and progesterone. Progesterone is actually called the hormone of pregnancy. Well, what happens at the time of menopause, since there is no more eggs being released, there is no more progesterone, and the estrogen levels drop signficantly. They drop to a fraction of what a woman was accustomed to.
For example, if you measure a woman’s key estrogen, most important estrogen is called estradiol, you measure that, during her reproductive lifetime the average level is about 200. After the menopause, the level is less than 30. So we see a real drop in a very important hormone because, keep in mind, and we’ll talk more about this, that single hormone estradiol has about 400 different actions in a woman’s body. So not only having to do with reproduction but having to do with vital parts of her body’s function, maybe the most important being short-term memory, but also many other tissues that are sensitive to its actions.
About Dr. Sarrel, M.D.:
Philip M. Sarrel, M.D., completed his medical education at New York University School of Medicine, his internship at the Mount Sinai Hospital, and his residency at Yale New Haven Hospital. In addition to his many years on the faculty of the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Sarrel has also been a Faculty Scholar in the department of psychiatry at Oxford University, Visiting Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital Medical School at the University of London, Visiting Professor in Cardiac Medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, and Visiting Professor in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. He is currently Emeritus Professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and psychiatry at Yale University.