Menopause Explained

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Dr Sujata Gupta is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in Salford, Greater Manchester with a particular interest in supporting women through the menopause. 

Thankfully, over the last two years, much has been done to raise awareness of the menopause and how it effects women’s bodies and minds.  No longer something that should just be accepted without understanding, Dr Gupta firmly believes that knowledge is power.  Here, she answers some of the most commonly asked questions about the menopause and debunks a well-told myth too:


What is the menopause?

“The best way to describe the menopause would be the permanent stoppage of ovarian activity, which means the ovaries stop producing the hormone required for women to have periods.  Most women generally understand the menopause as when their periods stop, however because this can be caused by a number of factors, such as if someone has a Mirena coil fitted, clinicians prefer to explain it as when the ovaries cease to be active.”


When am I likely to go through the menopause?

“The average age for the menopause is around 52, however women can start to experience peri-menopausal systems as much as ten years earlier.  During the perimenopause, women’s ovaries stop releasing hormones as cyclically as they used to, which can present numerous symptoms, the most common of which are bloating, irregular periods, shorter cycles, heavier periods, irritability and mood problems.”


How will the menopause affect me?

“The menopause continues to affect women for the rest of their life. When you consider that the average life expectancy of women is now 82, that’s 30 years of living with its effects.

“It’s important to know that the menopause causes a thinning of bones, which increases the likelihood of fractures as you get older and that post-menopausal women have a much higher risk of heart disease as their oestrogen levels fall.   Other common symptoms include irregular periods, vaginal dryness, hot flushes, chills, night sweats, problems sleeping, mood changes and weight gain.”


How should I manage the menopause and my symptoms?

“I host regular menopause workshops and regularly find that women are unaware of just how far-reaching the effects of the menopause can be, but that they feel far better equipped to deal with those changes once they understand what is happening to them, why it is happening and what they can do to help themselves.  Once women know the risks they can start to make better decisions and get the help they need.

“The first port of call to manage menopausal symptoms to is to look closely at your lifestyle and make as many positive changes as you can . Taking regular exercise, stopping smoking and losing weight if you have an unhealthy BMI, can all help to improve heart health and bone strength and reduce some of the most common symptoms of the menopause.

“Hormone replacement therapy is certainly an option and should be discussed with women. There are both benefits and risks of HRT and women should be given clear precise information to allow them to make an informed decision. There are lots of different types of HRT available,  which can make it confusing, but it means there are numerous others to try if you don’t find the right one straight away.

“For those women who do not want to take HRT or for whom it isn’t suited, there are other options such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as well as a number of herbal over-the-counter remedies including red clover and black cohosh, which my workshop patients have had some success with.”


What does HRT do and how will it help?

“Hormone replacement therapy replaces the oestrogen that your body is losing naturally, which helps to reverse some of the most common symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, reduced sex drive and mood swings.”


Are there any menopause myths that need debunking?

“Perhaps the biggest myth of all around the menopause is that women should just put up with it and its symptoms. There are numerous interventions including HRT. HRT marginally increases the risk of breast cancer over five years -  from 23 in 1000 to 27 in 1000 – but it is minimal compared to obesity, which doubles the risk from 23 in 1000 to 46 in 1000. 

“There are a significant number of benefits to using HRT including improving cardiovascular health, bone health and libido, plus it can improve quality of life dramatically.”

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