Defining Menopause, A Moment in Time

One of the main issues I find with perimenopause and menopause is the general confusion around the definition of menopause. This might sound a little ridiculous, but so many terms are used interchangeably that it can get a little puzzling.

As with most things with health, defining menopause and related terminology comes down to a perspective. The eyes of the viewer or the person experiencing the sensations will use language based on their experiences, knowledge of the subject and context of perception.

The word menopausal is often used to describe perimenopausal symptoms of hot flushes or night sweats. People often talk of The Menopause as a transition stage, which can go on between two and twelve years.

There are numerous theories about premenopause, perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, and with perimenopause, there are generally three to four stages, depending on where you are sourcing your information.

But I wonder if there is a necessity to define all of this. Is this confusion created by a society that values youthful appearances over wisdom, or is it a general over-medicalisation of the transition into the Wise Woman years?

If we look at different cultures and their perspectives on menopause, we can quickly find that there is no word for menopause in places like Japan. Until the relatively recent introduction of Western processed foods, ‘symptoms’ of menopause were virtually non-existent.

The Origins of Menopause Terminology

The term ‘menopause’ was first coined in 1821 by the French physician Gardanne. Originally used to describe the transition at mid-life and applicable for men or women, it soon became a term used almost exclusively for women and during the cessation of menstruation.

Fast forward a few hundred years to today, and we now have a medical term that is, in the most technical sense, used to describe one day or a moment in time. Medical texts will define menopause as the twelve-month marker from the last menstruation. So if we were hell-bent on being real medical grammar Nazis, then we could only use the term menopause for one single day in a woman’s life.

So, menopause is, from an academic perspective, just a moment in time, but we all know it is much more than that.

I wouldn’t say I like using the term menopause as I feel there are many negative connotations; I blame Western society’s youth obsession for this.

In much of my work, you will notice that I will use perimenopause, menopause, and climacteric interchangeably. Although I prefer to use the ye-olde term climacteric for a woman’s transition into the Wild Woman years, I understand this is unfamiliar today.

So, menopause is, from an academic perspective, just a moment in time, but we all know it is much more than that.

The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking action based on this article. While the author uses their best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises regarding the information’s accuracy, reliability or completeness. If you rely on any information in this article, you do so at your own risk.

About The Author

Leonie Satori

Naturopath and Herbalist Leonie is passionate about women’s health, especially perimenopause and all that midlife encompasses for women - anxiety, gut health and hormones. Her holistic and down-to-earth approach to well-being incorporates wisdom from traditional healing practices, including Western herbal medicine and Ayurveda plus over a decade of clinical experience. In her free time, you’ll find Leonie bush-walking, gardening and living life slowly.

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