What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural life stage for women and people who menstruate when periods stop and they are no longer fertile. The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause and a person is post-menopausal 1 year after their last period.
The average age of menopause in the UK is 51. It is a few years earlier for menstruating people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The normal age range for periods to stop is age 45 to 55. Around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. Periods usually start to become less frequent in the months or years before they stop altogether. Though sometimes periods can stop suddenly. Every woman is different.
It is after accompanied by a wide variety of symptoms such as flushes, sweats and mood changes. It can also cause vaginal and vulva dryness and soreness and can affect sex drive. It can also affect sleep and sleep quality. Most women will experience symptoms of menopause. Some symptoms can be severe and significantly impact on day to day activities. These symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods finally stop and last on average 4 years after your last period. For advice on how to manage symptoms see below.
Menopause and your mental health
Mental health can be affected at menopause. Mood changes such as feeling low, anxious, irritable and/or tearful are common. Fluctuating progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone levels can be responsible for many psychological symptoms including panic, anxiety and poor concentration. Our self-help resources below provide information on how the menopause affects mental health and advice on how you can manage symptoms.
Pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can become worse at menopause even if they were well managed prior to menopause.
Eating a healthy balanced diet, regularly exercising and maintain a healthy weight can improve some menopausal symptoms. See our ‘Looking after my mental wellbeing’ section for more information on the benefits of a healthy diet and physical activity.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) can relieve menopausal symptoms. In brief, HRT replaces oestrogen. Oestrogen levels affect menopausal symptoms. By the time you reach menopause your body is producing deficient levels of oestrogen. HRT can be provided through tablets, skin patches, gels or implants. HRT can help relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, joint pains, brain fog, mood swings and vaginal dryness. See our self-help resources below for details of websites which provide more information on HRT.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is known to be helpful in managing low mood and anxiety. CBT is a type of talking therapy which teaches coping skills. It helps people understand that what they think, how they feel and how they act all interact. It is a common treatment for people experiencing a range of mental health problems. If you are experiencing low mood/anxiety, see our information on low mood and anxiety which includes courses and resources using CBT.
If you are having difficulties with your sleep then see our information on sleep for information and advice.
For more information on the menopause and managing symptoms see our self-help resources below which contain information on helpful websites. For example, the Rock My Menopause website not only contains information for people experiencing the menopause, but for their loved ones and work colleagues. It also contains information for healthcare professionals.
Find out if there is a Menopause Café or support group in your local area by visiting the Menopause Café resource link below.
If this advice hasn’t been helpful and you need help managing your symptoms then visit your GP.
Last updated: 27.07.2022