Contraception guide

How do I know I've reached menopause if I'm on the pill?

You can't know for sure you've reached the menopause when you're on the pill. This is because hormonal contraception can affect your periods.

Menopause (when your periods stop permanently and you're no longer fertile) is usually diagnosed:

  • if you're over 50 and haven't had a period for more than 12 months
  • if you're under 50 and haven't had a period for more than two years

These rules do not apply if you're taking hormonal contraception.

In younger women, there are other reasons (apart from early menopause) why periods might stop, so discuss this with a healthcare professional if you're worried.

Bleeding if you're on the pill

If you're taking the combined pill, you'll have monthly period-type bleeds for as long as you keep taking the pill.

If you're taking the progestogen-only pill, your bleeds may be irregular or stop altogether for as long as you keep taking the pill.

The combined pill may also mask or control menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats.

These factors can make it hard to know when you're no longer ovulating and therefore no longer fertile.

No menopause test

There is no test that can tell for certain whether you're in the menopause and can stop contraception.

There is a blood test to measure levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which can indicate if a woman is becoming menopausal. But this isn't a useful test in women over 45 as FSH levels naturally go up and down at this time.

The FSH test is also not a reliable indicator that ovulation has stopped if a woman is taking the combined pill. It can be a helpful guide for women over 50 who are taking the progestogen-only pill.

Stopping contraception

All women can stop using contraception at the age of 55 as getting pregnant naturally after this is very rare. For safety reasons, women are advised to stop the combined pill at 50 and change to a progestogen-only pill or other method of contraception.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has guidance on contraception for women over 40.

It is sensible to use a barrier method of contraception, such as condoms, to avoid getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), even after the menopause.

Find local contraception services.

Page last reviewed: 18/07/2017

Next review due: 18/07/2020

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