The word menopause literally means when your periods stop. Meno refers to your menstrual cycle and pause refers to the cycle stopping.
The menopause occurs when your ovaries no longer produce eggs and, as a result, the levels of hormones called oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone fall.
Menopause is one day – the day in which you’ve not had a period for a year.
What is Peri Menopause?
The term perimenopause is often used to describe the time leading up to the menopause.
You will most likely experience menopausal symptoms and you may still be having periods. Your periods typically change during the perimenopause and may occur further apart or closer together; they can be more irregular and heavier or lighter in flow.
The hormones oestrogen and progesterone work together to regulate your menstrual cycle and also the production of eggs.
Throughout your perimenopause, the levels of these hormones fluctuate greatly, and it is often the imbalance of these hormones which leads to symptoms of the menopause occurring. For some women, symptoms only occur for a few months and then their periods stop completely.
However, other women experience symptoms for many months or even years before their periods stop.
When does it happen?
The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 years – therefore the last period occurs, on average, at 50 years old – however, this can be earlier for some women. Symptoms of the perimenopause often start at around 45 years of age.
Making the diagnosis of menopause
NICE guidelines indicate if you are over 45 years of age, have irregular periods and other symptoms of the menopause, you do not normally need any blood tests to diagnose the menopause. Your account of what symptoms you are experiencing is the basis for a diagnosis of the perimenopause or menopause. It is useful to track your symptoms using an app such as ‘balance’ menopause support.
If you are younger than 45 years of age, your healthcare professional may want you to have some tests before making a diagnosis.
It is important to remember that your bloods will likely reflect where you are in your cycle and can sometimes give doctors misleading information as your hormones rise and fall.
If your doctor indicates that your hormones are fine via blood insist on another set of blood in 6 weeks time.
How you can combat the symptoms of Menopause.
The most effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause is to replace the hormones your body no longer produces. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) contains oestrogen, a progestogen (or progesterone) if it’s needed, and in some cases, testosterone.
HRT also protects your future health from the bone weakening disease known as osteoporosis, and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer and dementia.
For most women the benefits of taking HRT outweigh any risks.
Exercise & Diet
It goes without saying that making healthy sustainable lifestyle changes alongside HRT are fundamental.
Regular exercise will keep your heart healthy and your bones strong, and eating a well balanced diet can help with weight gain at this time.
Cut out smoking and reducing alcohol will work favourable at this time so please consider trying a period of sobriety to help manage your symptoms