What is Menopause?

Often women, men, even health professionals are confused about “what is the Menopause”. Its often associated with grumpy, moody women with hot flushes.

The definition of the word menopause actually means your last menstrual period. Meno- refers to your menstrual cycle and –pause literally means stop. You have officially reached the menopause when you have gone through 12 consecutive months without a period. The time leading up to this is called the perimenopause.

The menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs and as a result the levels of your hormones called oestrogen and progesterone fall.

The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 years.

The menopause is a normal event in a woman life span, every woman will go through it at some stage. Certain conditions such as radiotherapy, surgery to remove your ovaries can bring about an early menopause. Life events, loss, bereavement, divorce can also accelerate the onset of the menopause.

Perimenopause is the term often used to describe the time of transition to the menopause.  Levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate greatly and it is often the imbalance of these hormones which leads to perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.

It is very common to have menopausal symptoms but still have periods. Periods may become lighter and less frequent or they may become heavier and more frequent. Around 80% of women experience menopausal symptoms that interfere with the quality of their life. Around 25% of women describe their symptoms as being severe.

Unfortunately, not enough women seek medical help and advice for their symptoms as they do not realise how effective treatment can be for them.

Symptoms of Menopause

Symptoms of the menopause can often have a very negative effect on your partner, your family and your work colleagues. It can be common for symptoms to come and go so you may have some months where you feel completely normal and then other times when you experience unpleasant symptoms which adversely affect the quality of your life.

Common symptoms usually include:

  • Hot flushes
    Occur in around 3 out of 4 women.
    9% of women having hot flushes into their 60’s, these are the ‘super flashers’.
  • Night sweats
    Many women find they wake up several times each night and are “drenched” with sweat.
  • Mood swings and Anxiety
    Feeling more irritable, angry and emotional.
  • Tiredness and poor sleep
  • Lack of libido
    Loss of interest, leading to avoidance of partner and relationship issues.
  • Poor concentration and memory
    More easily forgetful, not able to multi task as you used to.
  • Heavy Periods
  • Joint pains and stiffness
    Also known as arthritis of menopause, can take half an hour or so in the morning to get yourself going.
  • Hair and skin changes
    Fine lines and wrinkle sue to loss of elasticity of skin. Loss of fullness of hair.
  • Worsening premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Worsening migraines
  • Vaginal dryness, itching or soreness
  • Urinary symptoms
    Having to get up in the night to go to the toilet.