Blame men for menopause!

Are men to blame for menopause? They might be, according to a new study. In our evolutionary past, men’s preference for younger mates made fertility pointless for older women. This, in turn, may have eventually led to menopause.

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Evolutionary geneticists say:

In our evolutionary past, men’s preference for younger mates made fertility pointless for older women. This, in turn, may have eventually led to menopause.

How do you evolve infertility? It is contrary to the whole notion of natural selection. Natural selection selects for fertility, for reproduction–not for stopping it.

Over time, competition among men of all ages for younger mates has left older females with much less chance of reproducing. The forces of natural selection are concerned only with the survival of the species through individual fitness, so they protect fertility in women while they are most likely to reproduce.

After this period where women are most likely to reproduce, natural selection ceases to quell the genetic mutations that ultimately bring on menopause. This leaves women not only infertile, but also vulnerable to health problems.

This theory says that natural selection doesn’t have to do anything. If women were reproducing all along, and there were no preference against older women, women would be reproducing like men are for their whole lives.

Essentially, the very fact that men selected younger women means that older women lost the ability to reproduce. If women had selected younger men for reproduction, the outcome would have been reversed. Men would have lost their fertility while women would have stayed productive

They make sense. But an evolutionary biologist challenged the ‘blaming men for menopause’ theory. He said :

The authors argue that the menopause exists in humans because males have a strong preference for younger females. However, this is probably the wrong way round – the human male preference for younger females is likely to be because older females are less fertile. It makes more sense to see the human male preference for younger females largely as an evolved response to the menopause, and to assume that ancestral males would have been wise to mate with any females that could produce offspring. Evolutionarily-speaking, older females faced an interesting ‘choice': have a child that may not reach adulthood before your own death, or stop reproducing and instead focus on helping your younger relatives reproduce.”

I was never convinced by the grandmother theory anyway. The ‘older women are for taking care of younger women’s children’ theory always sounds strange to me. I would have convinced if there were a grandfather theory as well. Grandfathers also take care of their grandchildren. Don’t they? After having menopause an average woman goes on to live for another 30 years. It is more than enough time to raise children. This extended longevity – plus later childbirth – could potentially alter the timing of the menopause, over a significant ‘period of time, researchers believe. They say, ‘the social system is changing. There are women who are starting families later, because of education or a career.This trend would mean those women would have a later menopause, and those genes would be passed on to their daughters with the possibility of menopausal age being delayed.’ Yes, it would take unbelievably long time because our social structure is by all means patriarchal. Patriarchal system has been indoctrinating men to marry younger women and women to marry older men. As long as poverty and patriarchy exist, men would continue marrying much younger women, they might not even stop marrying female children. Child marriage is becoming illegal, raping children is so increasing in many societies.

Women experience a major, rapid change in fertility as they menopause. But men’s changes are not very significant. ‘Testicular tissue mass decreases and the level of the male sex hormone testosterone stays the same or decreases very slightly. There may be problems with erectile function. But it is still a general slowing, rather than a complete lack of function. The tubes that carry sperm may become less elastic. The testes continue to produce sperm, but the rate of sperm cell production slows. The epididymis, seminal vesicles, and prostate gland lose some of their surface cells but continue to produce the fluid that helps carry sperm.But in case of women, It is an end of fertility. The body no longer makes female hormones after menopause. Hormone replacement therapy is dangerous. It causes cancer.
Not necessarily nature, it is society dominated by men that has given men the privileges to mate with younger women which is the reason for them being fertile forever and suffer from different health problems much less than women of the same age. Because of menopause or lack of hormones, women suffer from Osteoporosis,Heart disease, Poor bladder and bowel function,Poor brain function (increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease), Poor skin elasticity (increased wrinkling), Poor muscle power and tone, Some deterioration in vision, such as from cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) etc. Women do not deserve to suffer from these diseases.

Menopause in 20’s

An alarming number of women in India are getting premature menopause. The reason of premature menopause is premature ovarian failure. The causes of premature ovarian failure are idiopathic, genetic disorders like turner syndrome and fragile X syndrome, autoimmune diseases, tuberculosis of the genital tract, radiation or chemotherapy to pelvic region, hysterectomy, prolonged gonadotrophin-releasing hormone therapy, enzyme defects, resistant ovary, induction of multiple ovulation in infertility etc.In some cases, specially in India, inhibin alpha gene.

But India’s leading newspaper The Times of India’s report says something else.

Doctors are finding a drastic change in the biological clocks of women as the mean age of contracting menopause has come down to around 35 years about 10 years early than what it was a decade ago. Gynaecologists confirmed treating women entering menopause as early as in their late 20s or early 30s.

A five-year long study conducted by Sattvam, a city-based care centre for women and children, found that 432 of the 980 women covered entered menopause in the age group of 30-35 years, while 216 were between 35-40 years age. The centre has also treated 68 women, who entered menopause in the age group of 25-30 years, while 264 women were above 40 years of age.

“What is worrying is that 42% of these women are working women. Ramifications of early menopause in some cases have been so extreme that it has adversely affected their profession and in some cases their personal life too. Most of them complained of frequent mood swings, depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. All these are capable of causing many other lifestyle diseases,” said Dr Deepak Shah, a homoeopath and director, Sattvam.

Dr Gayatri Karthik, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Manipal Hospitals, said: “Entering menopause in late 20s or early 30s is not very common, but still we get about 2-3 such cases in a year. I treated a 27-year-old patient for menopause about a year ago. Urban lifestyle, increasing use of artificial reproductive techniques and stress among others can be the reasons behind this. But with science making so much of progress and techniques available for assisted reproduction women need not worry.”

I do not think urban lifestyle, working outside home, using ‘artificial reproductive techniques'(!) and stress are the reasons of having early menopause. What is in the urban lifestyle, work, reproductive techniques and stress that prevents ovaries to work? I do not find a single possible link between them.

Is this ‘research’ to discourage women to work, to use contraceptives, and to encourage child marriage?

More research should be done to find out the scientific reasons, not the unscientific or the
pseudoscientific, of women’s menopause in their 20’s.