Menopause is when your periods stop due to lower hormone levels, usually between the ages of 45 and 55.
It can also sometimes happen earlier naturally, for reasons such as removing ovaries (oophorectomy) or the uterus (hysterectomy), cancer treatments like chemotherapy, or a genetic reason. Sometimes the reason is unknown.
Perimenopause is when you have symptoms before your periods have stopped. This can be years before menopause, on average between 5 and 7 years.
You reach menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
Menopause and perimenopause can cause symptoms like:
Symptoms can start years before your periods stop and carry on afterwards. It can feel different for everyone, and you may have one, several or no symptoms.
They can have a big impact on your life, including relationships, social life, family life and work.
There are things you can do to help with symptoms, including medicines that can replace the missing hormones and help relieve your symptoms.
It’s your personal choice about how to manage symptoms of the menopause and long-term health.
Some people might prefer medical options including hormone replacement therapy (HRT), while others prefer a complementary approach, or to make lifestyle changes.
It is always recommended that you go to your GP practice if you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, so they can talk you through all the options.
Before your appointment, it’s a good idea to:
For most women, HRT is a generally safe and effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause. It replaces the oestrogen your body is not producing through tablets, patches, gels, sprays or implants.
If you have a uterus (womb), you will need to take a hormone called a progestogen as well (combined HRT) to protect the lining of your uterus.
HRT is very effective at relieving most perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes can start to improve within a few days. Other symptoms such as joint pains and vaginal dryness can take a few weeks to improve.
Many people find their quality of life at home and at work improves when they take HRT.
Taking HRT can also reduce the risk of hormone-related health problems including osteoporosis, and, possibly, type 2 diabetes.
For most women, the benefits of HRT usually outweigh the small risks.
HRT can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer and some types can increase the risk of blood clots. Oral oestrogen is generally not recommended if you have previously had a stroke or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). HRT should only be used after expert advice if there is a previous history or high risk of breast or womb (uterine or endometrial) cancer.
You can potentially take HRT for as long as the benefits outweigh the risks, which may be for many years.
A healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on menopausal symptoms and long-term health. Implementing even small changes will help you feel like your symptoms are more under control.
Ways to lead a healthy lifestyle:
Some people choose to take herbal remedies such as black cohosh, soya-based foods, and red clover for hot flushes.
There is little research or evidence to say how effective these are, and they can have side-effects or interact with other drugs, so you are encouraged to talk to a GP or qualified medical herbalist before you choose these.
Set up by resident, Kerry Hutton, the Portsmouth Menopause Support Group is a safe and supportive environment for women struggling with symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
The group initially started as a closed group on Facebook and has grown into a monthly meeting. Both offer the opportunity for women to share their feelings, ask questions and support each other.
There is a Menopause collection of resources available at Southsea Library.
Speak to your employer to find out what support is available. We’re aware of the following support services through our partner organisations:
Women’s Health Concern is a national charity with a dedicated menopause section of their website. In July 2012, they officially become the patient arm of British Menopause Society.
Menopause Support is home of the national campaign, #MakeMenopauseMatter, which has free resources, a closed Facebook group and the Menopause Support Network.
Read more about menopause and perimenopause on the NHS website.