Menopause: the facts

Every woman will go through the menopause, but each experience of it is different.

Around 80% of women experience the most common symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats

It doesn’t happen at a particular age or last for a fixed period of time, and it can cause a variety of different symptoms – both physical and emotional. The menopause can be an unsettling time in a woman’s life, while some women go through it with no problems.

The menopause is the time when a woman’s periods stop. It happens because as women age, they slowly run out of eggs. Some scientists believe this happens to protect women and their children from the dangers of late childbearing.

This article covers the female menopause. Here is our information on male menopause.

When will I go through the menopause?

The average age that women go through the menopause is 52, but a woman could start to experience menopausal symptoms between the ages of 45 and 55. The symptoms can last two to five years.

Medical conditions can cause the menopause to happen much earlier, sometimes in a woman’s 20s or, in extreme cases, in childhood. This is known as premature ovarian failure (POF).

Menopause symptoms

Changes in hormone levels can produce different symptoms. It's estimated that around two-thirds of women experience the most common symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats. However, some women also report psychological symptoms, including depression, tiredness, lack of energy and vaginal dryness, which can be associated with a reduced interest in sex.

Long-term effects of the menopause include increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Find out how to tell if it's the menopause if you take the contraceptive pill.

Read what to do about hot flushes.

Watch the personal experiences of women who have gone through the menopause.

Osteoporosis after the menopause

Bone strength depends on bone tissue density and structure. Reduced amounts of minerals in the bone and slower production or replacement of bone cells weakens bones.

This happens to everybody as they age, but the change is faster in women after the menopause. This is why one in three women over 50 has osteoporosis, compared with only one in 12 men.

Osteoporosis increases the risk of breaking bones, especially those in the wrist, hip or spine. One in seven British women breaks a hip after the menopause.

Because oestrogen is important for healthy bone growth, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help to protect a woman’s bones from osteoporosis whilst she is on treatment.

Read how to look after your bones after the menopause.

Breast changes after the menopause

After the menopause it’s natural for your breasts to lose their firmness, change shape, shrink in size, become less dense and become more prone to certain abnormal lumps.

Read more about breast changes at the menopause.

Heart disease after the menopause

Cardiovascular disease is any disease of the heart or blood vessels, including heart attacks and strokes, usually caused by blocked arteries. It is the most common cause of death in women over 60, and there is evidence to suggest that women are more likely to get blocked arteries after the menopause.

Read how women can look after their heart.

Menopause treatments

As well as helping to protect women from osteoporosis, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is extremely good at controlling menopausal symptoms.

HRT can however, in some women, slightly increase the risk of developing conditions such as breast cancer, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), stroke and heart disease.

If your menopausal symptoms are troubling you, have a chat about the risks and benefits of HRT with your GP to help you decide if you want to try it.

Read more about HRT.

Lifestyle changes such as changing your diet and doing more exercise can also help with symptoms of the menopause. Find out more in Menopause: five self-help tips.

'Male menopause'

Some men may develop depression, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction and other physical and emotional symptoms when they reach their late 40s to early 50s. This is sometimes referred to as the "male menopause". However, this term is misleading as, unlike the female menopause, these symptoms are not necessarily hormonal.

Find out more about the "male menopause" and how to treat it.

Page last reviewed: 03/11/2014

Next review due: 03/11/2016


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The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

FluffyWytch said on 24 June 2015

I was 37 when I started going through the menopause. My Mum was 40 and my Aunt was 38, so you could say it runs in the family. Four and a bit years later and it is no better. I am a vegetarian and had always been tiny, in the last few years I have really piled on the pounds (despite my healthy diet). I got really depressed at work, although looking back this was perhaps the first sign and I missed it. I have hot flushes at any point - not just at night, so it is incredibly embarrassing and my skin is now very dry. My poor hubby, because despite absolutely loving him my body is not interested. My advice, get support from your partner (mine is wonderful) and invest in pretty fans and a short haircut.

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eliza1961 said on 05 June 2013

Hi, glad I found this place, I am suddenly after a year and a half of being so very happy with my new partner doubting my relationship, in the last week and a half I've started being very tearful, overthinking and panicking about all there is to panic about in life! I have been treated for many years for depression but as I was so happy stopped my anti depressants about four weeks ago thinking I didn't need them. I also know I'm going through menopause stage as I have not had a period for about four months and before that they were very staggered. No relationship is perfect and we have had our ups and downs but it's the first time since my divorce that I could be in a relationship and not over think things, life just went along so happily but now I keep reverting back to it must be my relationship? Anyone else feel this way, please help :)

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Marian Moss said on 19 April 2013

My periods stopped 2 years ago, I am 48, yet my GP still says I am not menopausal. My partner died 17 months ago after a 2 year battle with pancreatic cancer so they put the lack of periods down to stress. I am also getting migraine headaches, at least once per week. They wipe me out for 24 hours. Add into the mix the fact that I have polycystic ovary syndrome and sufferers of this condition are likely to go through the menopause early I am convinced that I have been through the menopause. I'd just like to know so that I have a clue to why I get these headaches.

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Robert Patrick said on 20 December 2012

Like women, men also suffer andropause. which is male menopause.

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hotpepper1 said on 29 October 2012

just a quick comment , i stopped drinking coffee a few weeks ago which stopped the anxiety and ive started taking vitabitotics (menopace) i feel like a teenager this week with no aching joints or muscles or that horrible fuzzy spaced out feeling, im sleeping better and waking up more refreshed, the hot flushes are still there but im going to give it time ive only been talking the menopace for less than 2 weeks. god i felt like a ninety year old woman a couple of weeks ago it was horrendous, im 50 x

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sue1971 said on 16 December 2008

i'm only in my 30's but for 6 years i'v not had a good sex drive & i won't to no wat courses it & i'v got a new partner as well there but i'm too scared to have sex with him there as years ago it was great couldn't get enough of it but now it's diffrent.

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The menopause is marked by the ending of menstruation (when a woman's periods stop), and changes in the hormones. As a result of these hormonal changes, many women have physical and emotional symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats and irritability. In this video, family doctor Dawn Harper talks about how to ease the symptoms of the menopause, whether to take HRT, and more.

Media last reviewed: 06/08/2014

Next review due: 06/08/2016

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