Yes, you read correctly ‘manopause’. A take on the term ‘menopause’, it has been used to describe the changes in hormone production that men experience as they age. In other words ‘male menopause’.
To compare what men experience as they age with women’s experience of menopause is misleading, as there is one major point of difference.
Firstly, one thing both girls and boys have in common, is that they are born with all the immature eggs and undeveloped sperm cells, respectively, that they will ever have and more than they will ever need. Secondly, with the onset of puberty, both the eggs of females and sperm of males, mature.
The other similarity, reproduction wise for both sexes, is that changes start to occur around forty years of age.
In women this is menopause, the ceasing of menstruation. When menopause occurs the ovaries no longer release an egg every month, and consequently natural reproduction is no longer possible. Hot flushes and night sweats are most common along with sleep disruption, mood disturbance and many other effects related to hormonal changes.
In men, sperm production does not cease, and men will continue to produce sperm for their entire lives. However, the change that does take place, is a decline in testosterone. This obviously means that although men can have less testosterone they are still able to father children well into their eighties. The drop in testosterone levels, in part, can be responsible for a lack of energy, decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, cognitive decline, mood swings and a lower libido.
As testosterone is an androgen, the term ‘andropause’ more aptly describes this stage of men’s reproductive life than ‘manopause’. Andropause differs from menopause in that rather than having an abrupt end to the release of fertile eggs, there is a gradual decline in testosterone and not an end to the supply of mature sperm. As such, the effects are more subtle and develop over a longer period of time.
So it can be said that there is a hormonal change in both men and women at roughly forty years of age, but the causes and effects are entirely different.
Although the term ‘menopause’ may be a misnomer, the actual effect of low testosterone is a very real, but hard to define, phenomenon, and like the symptoms, the fix is not always clear. Whether you choose to address the effects of andropause with medication or look to increase testosterone with more sleep, good food or exercise, the best place to start is to discuss the options with your doctor.
In the meantime, although a catchy term, ‘Menopause’ is perhaps better to be replaced with ‘Andropause’ to save confusion and remind us that men and women are intrinsically different.