2022 in One Word: Menopause
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that our bodies are capable of staggering unpleasantness
At birth, babies with ovaries already have all the eggs their body will ever produce. Technically, these aren’t eggs. They’re oocytes — immature eggs.
We start out with a couple million oocytes (give or take), more than half of which will die by the time we hit puberty. Don’t worry. That leaves plenty of oocytes to enjoy a monthly period for the next 35 to 40 years.
Thanks to healthline, I’ve refamiliarized myself with the process of human egg production. Here’s the very simplified version: An oocyte exists in a sac of fluid inside a follicle inside your ovary — kind of like a fertility turducken. Each month, one lucky oocyte becomes the egg that becomes your period, but a bunch of less lucky oocytes will die every month until, in a few decades, you ultimately run out of oocytes.
And that’s what brings me to my 2022 word of the year: menopause.
There’s no definitive way to know when menopause begins. Believe me, I’ve Googled it. I’ve asked my friends. I’ve seen my doctor (multiple times) in an effort to gauge the timeline for this life-changing event.
There are signs, to be sure. But they’re different for everyone and it’s not exactly a topic that people like to talk about. The onset of menopause comes with a vaguely familiar set of symptoms, listed with zero fanfare, on the Mayo Clinics and healthlines of the internet. They read like the ingredients of a particularly unpleasant recipe: chills, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, a propensity to want to weep or smash things (in my case).
This year, I learned that the term “irregular periods” is clinical-speak for the nightmarish crime scenes that my periods have become in a phase of life known as “perimenopause.”
Perimenopause begins in your late 40s, on average, when your basket of eggs is more empty than full. Changes in various hormones produce various symptoms that can last years before the golden goose — menopause — actually happens.