What is the menopause?
Strictly speaking, the menopause is your last menstrual period. However, most women think of the menopause as the time of life leading up to, and after, their last period. In reality, your periods don't just stop. First they tend to become less frequent. It can take several years for a woman to go through the menopause completely. Women are said to have gone through the menopause (be postmenopausal) when they have not had a period at all for one year.
A natural menopause occurs because as you get older your ovaries stop producing eggs and make less oestrogen (the main female hormone). The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51. Your menopause is said to be early if it occurs before the age of 45 and premature if it occurs before the age of 40 years. Early menopause is uncommon.
There are certain things that may cause an early menopause. For example:
Early menopause and premature menopause are not discussed in detail in this leaflet
The menopause is a natural event. Every woman will go through it at some point. You may have no problems. However, it is common to develop one or more symptoms which are due to the low level of oestrogen. About 8 out of 10 women will develop menopausal symptoms at some point.
These short-term symptoms only last for a few months in some women. However, for others they can continue for a few years after their last period:
Your doctor can usually diagnose the menopause by your typical symptoms. Hormone blood tests are not usually needed to confirm that you are going through the menopause. However, they may be helpful in some cases. For example, if your doctor suspects that you are going through an early menopause, or if you have had a previous hysterectomy (and so are no longer having periods), or if you are not experiencing typical symptoms of the menopause.
Without treatment, the short-term symptoms discussed above last for 2-5 years in most women. In some women they may last longer. HRT is available to ease the symptoms of the menopause. It has benefits and risks, which are discussed below.
There are treatments other than HRT for menopausal symptoms. As a rule, they are not as effective as HRT, but may help relieve some symptoms. (See separate leaflet called Menopause - Alternatives to HRTfor details of menopausal symptom treatments other than HRT, which are not mentioned further here.)
Read more here:
Menopause and HRT - symptoms and signs. The average ...
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