LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What reproductive changes occur in women?

• What reproductive changes occur in men?

•What are the psychological effects of reproductive changes?

H

elen woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. She’d been feeling fine when she went to bed after her 48th birthday party, so she wasn’t sure what was the matter. She thought she was too young to experience menopause. Helen wonders what other things she’ll experience.

As you probably surmised, Helen has begun going through “the change" a time of life that many women look forward to and just as many see as the beginning of old age. It is a time during which a major biological process, called the climacteric, occurs during which a woman will pass from her reproductive to nonre­productive years. In Helen’s case, she is entering the perimenopausal phase, which leads into menopause, the point at which her ovaries will stop releasing eggs. For women, the climacteric is the defining physio­logical event in middle age. Men do not endure such sweeping biological changes but experience several gradual changes instead. Beyond the physiological effects, these changes have important psychological implications because many people think midlife is a key time for redefining ourselves. Let’s see how the experience differs for women and men.