Menstruation, Perimenopause, and Chaos Theory


This article argues that menstruation, including the transition to menopause, results from a specific kind of complex system, namely, one that is nonlinear, dynamical, and chaotic. A complexity-based perspective changes how we think about and research menstruation-related health problems and positive health. Chaotic systems are deterministic but not predictable, characterized by sensitivity to initial conditions and strange attractors. Chaos theory provides a coherent framework that qualitatively accounts for puzzling results from perimenopause research. It directs attention to variability within and between women, adaptation, lifespan development, and the need for complex explanations of disease. Whether the menstrual cycle is chaotic can be empirically tested, and a summary of our research on 20- to 40-year-old women is provided.