The menopause happens when a woman’s body stops having periods due to a natural decline of oestrogen levels. The average age for a woman to hit the menopause in the UK is around 50, but it’s not uncommon for it to take place anywhere between 45 and 55.
Many of our gynaecology consultants offer effective advice and treatments for women with menopause symptoms.
The most common cause of menopause is a natural decline in a woman’s oestrogen levels that result in her ovaries stopping the production of eggs.
Underlying medical conditions such as Turner’s syndrome can cause menopause as well as medical treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or oophorectomies (surgical removal of the ovaries). Early menopause can be linked to genetics and often runs in families.
There are three stages of menopause:
Perimenopause, also known as menopause transition, begins several years before menopause and ends when 12 months have passed without a period that is not due to other causes, such as illness, medication, pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Perimenopause in the UK usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but it can be earlier. It can last from a few months to many years. On average perimenopause lasts for four years.
During perimenopause, your ovaries gradually make less oestrogen. In the later stage of perimenopause, this decrease in oestrogen speeds up and can cause menopause symptoms.
There is a wide range of symptoms for menopause and they can often be confused for other medical conditions. With all of these symptoms, certain lifestyle changes or medication can help to alleviate them. The most common ones are:
The menopause can start early in some women. Why this can happen to a woman earlier in life is still unknown as there are no clear causes.
Early menopause is when a woman's periods stop before the age of 45.
Premature menopause is when the menopause starts before the age of 40.
The main premature and early menopause symptom is infrequent periods or periods stopping altogether without any other reason. Women may also experience other symptoms of regular menopause.
Women who go through early or premature menopause may feel distressed or depressed over the early loss of their fertility, especially if they had hoped to have children, or the change in their bodies. They may experience more severe menopause symptoms and have a higher risk of health problems, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, as they have lower oestrogen levels.
If you think you are experiencing menopausal symptoms a simple blood test that measures your hormone levels will confirm this.
Testing for menopause is usually offered to women aged 40 to 45 but it can be done younger than 40 if premature menopause is suspected as the cause of your symptoms.
A Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT is the most common treatment for the menopause and involves taking oestrogen to replace the levels being lost. This relieves the symptoms that occur due to this.
The main two types of HRT treatment are:
Like all treatments, there are certain risks involved with HRT treatment and these will be discussed with your consultant. HRT can also help prevent the weakening of bones, a condition some women suffer from after menopause.
Other menopause treatments
The other treatments for menopause largely focus around tackling the individual symptom. These can be worked out with your Consultant who may want you to see one of our other specialists in the relevant field.
Postmenopause begins 12 months after your last period and continues until the end of your life.
After menopause, your hormones do not fluctuate as much as when you were in perimenopause and this often means that menopause symptoms ease. This is not always the case and some women can continue to experience menopause symptoms for many years after the menopause transition.
During postmenopause you will have lower levels of oestrogen and this causes an increased risk of a number of health symptoms and conditions including:
Every woman’s risk of these conditions is different and your doctor can discuss these with you, the steps you can take to reduce your individual risk, and treatment options. More information on Postmenopause can be found here.
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