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What is menopause?

Menopause is when your periods (menstruation) stop. This happens because of a change in your hormone levels, usually between the ages of 45 and 55. For some women this can happen earlier, in their 30s.

Menopause is a natural part of life. However for some women, menopause can happen earlier; due to surgery to remove the ovaries (oophorectomy) or the uterus (hysterectomy), cancer treatments like chemotherapy, or genetics.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause happens before menopause. Perimenopause is when you have symptoms of menopause but your periods have not stopped. The first sign of the perimenopause is usually, but not always, a change in the normal pattern of your periods, for example they don’t come as regularly as before. Eventually you'll stop having periods altogether.

Signs of menopause / perimenopause

It can feel different for everyone. You may have a lot of the things listed below, or you may not experience any of them.

In your feelings and thinking

  • changes to your mood - like low mood, anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem

  • problems with memory or concentration (sometimes called ‘brain fog’)

In your body (physical signs)

  • changes to your periods (menstrual cycle)

  • you have sudden feelings of hot or cold in your face, neck and chest which can make you feel uncomfortable or lightheaded (called hot flushes)

  • difficulty sleeping and night sweats. This may make you feel tired and irritable during the day

  • your heartbeats suddenly become more noticeable (palpitations)

  • headaches and migraines that are worse than usual

  • muscle aches and joint pains

  • change in your body shape, difficulty maintaining weight and/or putting on weight especially around the mid-section

  • skin changes including dry and itchy skin

  • not feeling like you want to have sex (low libido)

  • vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex

  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)

  • sensitive teeth, painful gums or other mouth problems

These signs could last for months or years, and can change with time. For example, hot flushes and night sweats may get better or resolve, but then you starting feeling anxious and/or sad.

What can I do about menopause / perimenopause?

It is important to speak to your GP and get advice early. This can help reduce the impact of perimenopause and menopause on your health, relationships and work.

There are things that can be done to help, for example, there are medicines that can replace the missing hormones and help relieve your symptoms.

There are also things that you can do to look after yourself and feel better,  such as eating well, movement/exercise and relaxation.

Where can I get further information?