When a woman going through peri-menopause, the phase that precedes menopause , she may or may not ovulate. A woman can have a menstrual period even though she hasn't ovulated.
Ovulation generally occurs mid-cycle, at which time an egg is released from its follicle, leaves the ovary and moves into the fallopian tube. The egg then makes its way to the uterus where, if it meets up with a sperm, a pregnancy can result. According to Healthsquare.com, a woman is born with as many as two million eggs. However, as a woman ages, her egg supply becomes exhausted.
Aging ovaries become non-responsive to the body's signals that it is time to produce an egg. When this occurs, less progesterone is manufactured and the ovaries gradually lose their ability to ovulate. When ovulation stops completely, the estrogen levels plummet and menstruation ceases altogether. This is menopause.
Cycle Becomes Erratic
When a woman is in peri-menopause, the ovulatory cycle becomes erratic. The body's normal hormonal rhythm is interrupted and menstrual periods can become inconsistent. If a woman isn't careful about using birth control during this phase of her life, she can become pregnant, because it is hard to predict whether or when she is going to ovulate. A peri-menopausal woman can only get pregnant during those cycles when she is ovulating, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some women may experience a stabbing pain in the lower right or left side of their abdomen, which indicates ovulation is taking place, although many women never experience this sensation. A woman's breasts might get sore mid-cycle indicating that she is ovulating. A woman's ability to get pregnant decreases as ovulation becomes irregular; however, pregnancy can still occur. The Mayo Clinic recommends that women use birth control until they have gone a full year without a menstrual period.
The Ovaries Shut Down for Good
When menopause occurs, this means that the ovaries have shut down for good, and menstruation will no longer occur. Estrogen, which is vital to a woman's heath, is no longer produced by her body. Estrogen helps nurture vaginal membranes, maintains bone density, stimulates breast tissue and helps keep skin supple. A woman's body is accustomed to experiencing a surge of estrogen followed by a burst of progesterone during her monthly cycle. The production of these hormones stops when ovulation ceases. This puts women at a higher risk of getting osteoporosis and cardio-vascular disease.
Premature Ovarian Failure
According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, 1 percent of women experience premature ovarian failure, which results in the onset of menopause before the age of 40. If a young woman's ovaries stop working, the condition may be caused either by an autoimmune condition or some genetic factor. However, sometimes no cause can be determined.