Menopause is the onset of the loss of fertility in women due to the cessation of the menses. Generally, women begin to show signs of menopause (also called peri-menopause) in their late 30's and early 40's. Most women whose cycles are not regulated chemically, begin to skip their cycles for longer and longer periods of time. Formal definition of "menopause" is when a woman has gone without her monthly cycle for at least 1 year.
Menopause is caused by a natural change in the production of female hormones.
Menopause is not limited to the lack of a monthly cycle, but involves changes in the body including: dryer skin, changes in the sexual drive, hot flashes, changes in sleep cycles, and other minor changes. Though women throughout history have noted that menopause can be liberating, it is demanding on the physical body.
Menopause and religion
Many cultures throughout the world have held special places in their community for women who have gone through menopause. They are often treated by the culture as "elders" at that point, acting as guides (in some cases for both men and women) about natural questions in life and community governance. Women in Native American tribes often become healers at this time in their life, and can sit on the various councils along side the men.
In Judaism, only a woman who has gone through menopause may touch the Torah.
Sites like Women Today help women find connections for "The Change" with both spiritual study from the Bible as well as support groups. When looked at the right way, and when done in an environment of support and love, Menopause can be seen - not as a loss or a curse - but as a gift from God which would allow a woman to shift focus to different aspects of her life, like her extended family, her community, or her grandchildren.