Menopause and Climacteric: What Are They and What Are Their Differences?

If we say climacteric or menopause, are we talking about the same thing or are we confusing these terms for synonyms? We'll tell you then.
Menopause and Climacteric: What Are They and What Are Their Differences?

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 09 July, 2021

Last update: 09 July, 2021

Even today, there are many generalizations and misunderstandings about the stages that a woman’s body goes through throughout her life. Menopause and climacteric are two terms that, to a greater or lesser extent, we tend to use as synonyms.

This usually happens because we don’t take into account that the end of a woman’s fertile stage can have subdivisions.

As stated in the chapter entitled “Reproductive Stages in Adult Women: Transition to Menopause” in the book Climacteric and Menopause, “it’s difficult for both women and doctors to differentiate the changes related to ovarian aging from those linked to general senescence”.

Even so, in order to distinguish both terms more easily from now on, we’ll take into account what was stated by the authors of this article published in the Journal of the UNAM Faculty of Medicine.

What’s the climacteric?

Menopause and climacteric affect older adult women
Both menopause and climacteric can cause unpleasant symptoms, this being one of the reasons why both terms are confused.

The term climacteric refers to the transition between the fertile stage and the end of it. It comes from the Greek climater, which means ‘steps’, and can start up to 10 years before a woman is declared to have reached menopause.

It is characterized by the variability in the periodicity of menstrual cycles. This means that the menstrual cycle will no longer be as regular as before. Sometimes it will last longer, other times less, and that there may be no menstruation in certain months. However, everything depends on the individual woman’s body.

On the other hand, the climacteric syndrome is the set of signs and symptoms that appear in perimenopause.

Some of the most common characteristics are hot flashes, palpitations, weight gain, genitourinary disorders, headaches, and fatigue. According to a study published in the Cuban Journal of Integral General Medicine, nervousness, irritability and depression are also frequent.

The authors stated the following:

  • Women who didn’t report any discomfort were asymptomatic and those who had symptoms 3 to 10 times a day were symptomatic. Regarding the latter, we should note that the women who reported more bothersome symptoms between 4 and 10 episodes at least.
  • When the woman interviewed said that she was unable to carry out her daily tasks, the symptoms were classed as very annoying. However, when she didn’t change her routine they were classed as slightly annoying.

What’s menopause?

When a woman’s menstrual periods have stopped and fertility has come to an end (that is, after 12 consecutive months of amenorrhea have passed) the woman is said to have already entered menopause.

According to the authors of the aforementioned article, this “occurs due to atresia of the ovarian follicles and their ability to produce estrogens when stimulated by follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones.”

Menopause is the end of a woman’s fertile stage. It’s a natural and inevitable process. Although it’s true that it has often been seen as a negative stage in life, women can still live a healthy life if they look after themselves and follows their doctor’s instructions, attends all the periodic check-ups he or she may request.

Why is it important to maintain a good attitude towards menopause and climacteric?

Menopause and climacteric must be dealt with in a good way
Calmly accepting normal changes, as well as following medical recommendations, are ways of dealing with the situation in a better way.

Like what happens in other situations and stages of life, it’s essential to cultivate a good attitude towards menopause, learning about it, breaking down the negative associations that revolve around it, and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits for the body and the mind.

The Australasian Menopause Society states the following:

“Mood disorders, general anxiety symptoms, and depression are common during the menopause transition, and some women have been shown to be at an increased risk of depression and psychosis at this time. These symptoms may be more common with severe vasomotor problems, sleep disorders and after surgical menopause.”

In view of this, it isn’t uncommon to observe how the women who fight the most as they go through it, tend to experience it in an unpleasant way. They may also be more likely to experience the respective symptoms in a more intense and unpleasant way, including depression.

In conclusion, although menopause and climacteric are terms that may seem similar, they actually refer to specific situations. Knowing more about each of them, their impact, and the best ways to cope can help you maintain a good quality of life more easily.

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