Introduction to the menopause

Three women walking at the park

All women will experience the menopause at some point during their life. The menopause can also impact trans and non-binary people who may not identify as female.

In the UK, the average age a woman reaches the menopause is 51, with most experiencing symptoms for some time before and after this. These can have a significant impact on daily life for some women.

  • 90% of women get menopausal symptoms
  • 46% of women felt unprepared for their menopause
  • 10% of women quit work due to menopause

As with many things in life, knowledge is power, and if you know what to expect, you can prepare for this stage of your life and influence your experience of it.

What is the menopause?

The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. As a woman’s body changes and her hormones start to alter, she may experience a number of symptoms, and some increased health risks.

Menopause is preceded by the perimenopause, during which the body prepares itself for menopause. The perimenopause can also last several years and can involve similar symptoms to the menopause itself. 

The first sign of the menopause is usually a change in the normal pattern of a woman’s periods, usually around the ages of 45 – 55 years old.

Common symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty
  • Night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night
  • Difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day
  • A reduced sex drive (libido)
  • Weight gain
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
  • Palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
  • Joint stiffness, aches and pains
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

The menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis), cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

See your GP if you're finding your symptoms particularly troublesome, as treatments are available.


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