Most women will experience some menopause symptoms. Their duration and severity varies from woman to woman, but they can be hard to live with. Our guide can help you understand and manage these symptoms.
Menopause symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop. This is known as the perimenopause and can persist for some time afterwards. On average, most menopause symptoms last around four years from your last period. However, around one in every ten women experience menopause symptoms 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.
What are the first signs of menopause?
The first signs of menopause are usually changes in the normal pattern of your monthly periods. You may start having either unusually light or heavy periods and the frequency of your periods may also be affected. You may have them every two or three weeks, or you may not have them for months at a time.
Eventually, you'll stop having periods altogether.
What are the most common menopause symptoms?
About eight in every ten women will have additional menopause symptoms for some time before and after their periods stop. These can have a significant impact on daily life for some women.
Most menopause symptoms are caused by fluctuations in hormone levels, especially low oestrogen.
- Hot flushes (also known as hot flashes): 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)
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Vaginal dryness and pain caused by vaginal atrophy
- Itching or discomfort during sex
- Menopause headaches
- Mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
- Palpitations: heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
- Joint pain, stiffness and aches
- Reduced muscle mass
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
The menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis).
Menopause can also affect you psychologically. The stress associated with changes to your body can impact your mental wellbeing as well as your physical health. It’s common to experience stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of sadness, aggressiveness, and depression - as well as difficulty focusing and a lack of motivation.
Our guide to good mental health during the menopause has some helpful tips on dealing with these issues.
Is there a treatment for menopause symptoms?
The most popular treatment for menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT boosts hormone levels and can help relieve most menopause symptoms.
There are also changes you can make to your lifestyle to help manage menopause symptoms, including regular exercise and a healthy diet, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, stopping smoking and relaxation.
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Published on 23 June 2022