Menopause is the time of your life when your menstrual cycles end. If you go one year without a period, you have entered the menopause. It usually happens in your 40s or 50s.
What is the menopause?
When you enter the menopause, your ovaries stop making oestrogen and progesterone. As well as being associated worth some symptoms, and an increased occurrence of certain medical conditions such as osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), this means you can no longer get pregnant.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing – however, it can sometimes start earlier than the age of 40 (this is known as premature menopause). Certain medical conditions, medications and surgery can cause the menopause.
What are the symptoms of the menopause?
Menopause can come with some uncomfortable symptoms, which can begin months or even years before your final period, including:
- difficulty sleeping
- sweating and hot flushes
- joint pains
- racing heart
- decreased sex drive
- vaginal soreness and pain during sex
- depression or anxiety
- difficulty remembering things and maintaining concentration
These symptoms can happen intermittently for many months or even years in the build up and after your last period.
What causes the menopause?
As your ovaries age, they naturally produce less reproductive hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). This causes your body to go through changes and triggers the above symptoms. In some cases, for example if you go through premature menopause, you may wish to see a doctor. This will help to rule out the possibility of underlying conditions having triggered your premature or induced menopause.
How is the menopause diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing particularly uncomfortable symptoms related to the menopause, see your doctor. To help make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your general medical health, when your periods stopped and your symptoms.
You may be referred for blood tests to measure your hormone levels and confirm your menopause diagnosis.
How is the menopause treated?
There are an array of different treatments to help if you are getting bothersome symptoms. It is important to consider the pros and cons of all treatments. Depending on your medical history, your symptoms and your wishes, your doctor may recommend some (or all) of the following:
- hormonal or non-hormonal medication
- diet or lifestyle changes, including taking certain supplements and exercise
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.
For more advice on how to manage the symptoms of menopause read our guide.