The menopause transition is a dynamic process that begins with the first appearance of menstrual irregularity and ends with a woman's final menstrual period. As ovarian follicle numbers dwindle, the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis enters a state of compensated failure. In this state, elevated FSH is capable of maintaining relatively regular folliculogenesis and ovulation, but fertility is reduced. Eventually, this state of compensated failure cannot be sustained, and the ovary becomes unable to produce functioning follicles. Recent multicenter studies from several countries have addressed the pattern of change in hormones and a model form reproductive aging has been developed that helps explain the changes in hormone patterns and fertility that accompany menopause. Perhaps more important, the hormonal changes of the menopausal transition may be predictive of future disease risk. This review will undertake an explanation of the current literature on this topic.
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