What is it?
Menopause is the time when your body changes and your menstrual cycle stops. It is a natural event which happens to every woman. It occurs when your ovaries stop working and you stop producing the usual amount of two important female sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. It is this change in hormone levels that causes the symptoms of menopause. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 52. But any time between 45 and 55 years old is considered normal.
What are the symptoms?
Most women will experience some symptoms around the menopause. The duration and severity of these symptoms varies from woman to woman. Symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop, known as the perimenopause, and can persist for some time afterwards. On average, most symptoms last around four years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years. If you experience the menopause suddenly rather than gradually – for example, as a result of cancer treatment – your symptoms may be worse.
Changes to your periods:
The first sign of the menopause is usually a change in the normal pattern of your periods. You may start having either unusually light or heavy periods. The frequency of your periods may also be affected. You may have one every two or three weeks, or you may not have one for months at a time. Eventually, you’ll stop having periods altogether.
Common menopausal symptoms:
About 8 in every 10 women will have additional symptoms for some time before and after their periods stop. These can have a significant impact on daily life for some women.
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 flashes that occur at night.
- Difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day.
- A reduced sex drive (libido).
- Problems with memory and concentration.
- Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex.
- 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), such as cystitis.
The menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis). See your GP if you’re finding your symptoms particularly troublesome, as treatments are available.
What to expect?
Things you can try at home to reduce your menopause symptoms:
For sleep problems:
- Keep your room temperature low & room well ventilated, dim lights before sleeping, wear comfortable night clothes.
- For hot flushes: Drink cold liquids, wear loose fitting cotton clothes. Make a note on the things that trigger hot flushes such as spicy food and try to avoid them.
For vaginal symptoms:
- When having sex, take more time for foreplay and consider using a lubricant.