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From 'What are the 34 symptoms?' to 'What signals the end?' here are the answers to the questions that you’ve been searching for

It’s a perfectly natural part of life, but also one that we have a lot of questions about. And, understandably so. Menopausal symptoms can be wide-ranging and for some, can have a significant impact on their daily life. So, it’s no wonder that so many of us turn to the internet to find out how to best navigate our way through this potentially difficult time.

What are the topics that people have been searching for most? We found out and sought out the answers for you, so you don’t have to. From whether periods can suddenly stop to whether menopause makes you tired and how to maintain a healthy weight, here’s your go-to fact-sheet to provide a helping hand.

What is menopause & what happens during it?

The menopause is where a woman stops menstruating and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. It occurs when the ovaries produce less of the hormone oestrogen and don’t release an egg each month. 

Before this time, women go through perimenopause, which is the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. Perimenopause is often characterised by irregular cycles of ovulation and menstruation and ends 12 months after the last menstrual period. Women start perimenopause at different ages and can experience symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles and mood changes. 

While a natural part of ageing, menopause can start earlier (the average age for menopause is between 45-55) due to some breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or surgery to remove the ovaries, while some conditions such as Down’s syndrome and Addison’s disease can predispose people to earlier menopause. 

What age does menopause start?

Generally, it occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 (the average age in the UK is 51). 

That being said, this can vary between ethnic groups and around one in 100 women experience premature menopause before the age of 40. If you're under 45 and have noticed your periods becoming infrequent or stopping altogether, you should speak to a GP, as women who go through early menopause also have an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease because of their lowered oestrogen hormone levels.

What are the 34 symptoms of menopause?

The duration and severity of symptoms differs from woman to woman and some may be harder to deal with than others. “Everyone always thinks of hot flushes, but quite often the more disruptive symptoms are lower mood or anxiety, brain fog, poor sleep,” says Dr Sohere Roked, hormone and integrative medical doctor. 

Symptoms can have an effect on both physical and mental health. The most common ones include:

• Hot flushes

• Night sweats

• Problems with memory 

• Difficulty concentrating or brain fog

• Low mood 

• Anxiety

• Poor sleep

• Reduced libido

• Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex

• Changes to your period

• Headaches

• Palpitations

•Joint stiffness, aches and pains

• Reduced muscle mass

• Recurrent UTIs

• Increase of risk of weak bones (osteoporosis)

Others may experience:

• Fatigue

• Irritability

• Weight gain

• Incontinence

• Hair loss

• Bloating

• Nausea and digestive problems

• Panic disorders or attacks

• Depression

• Tingling sensations

• Dry and itchy skin (you might also find our guide to how menopause affects your skin helpful)

• Dizziness

• Weak or brittle nails

• Bleeding gums

• Sore breasts

• Change to body odour

• Burning mouth

• Electric shocks

If you’re struggling with your menopause symptoms, book in with your GP to discuss treatment options. There are a range of treatments for different symptoms, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for mental health, and lifestyle changes that can help you to manage symptoms day-to-day. Treatment plans are reviewed after three months, and once a year after that, to check whether they’re working and monitor any side effects. 

Does menopause make you tired?

Yes it can. There are a couple of good reasons for this, the first is hormonal. Dr Roked explains that lower levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can leave you feeling tired and fatigued. Secondly, difficulty sleeping is a common menopausal symptom which, when coupled with night sweats, can make a good rest hard to come by and have a knock-on effect on energy levels. For tips on treating the symptoms, check out our guide to sleep and the menopause

Can periods stop suddenly in menopause?

Yes. “Some women get irregular periods first or delayed periods, but for some women they can just stop suddenly,” says Dr Roked. 

How long does menopause last?

“It’s different for everyone but from my patients, the average time is two to five years. However, it can be longer for others,” says Dr Roked.

While most symptoms can last around four years from your last period, around one in every 10 women can experience them for up to 12 years. 

What signals the end of menopause?

“For some women, it is the subsiding of symptoms,” says Dr Roked. If you’re going by your last period, post menopause is the term given to the time after a woman hasn’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months. 

“Others may find that their symptoms are ongoing,” highlights Dr Roked. Help is at hand though, and your GP will be able to discuss treatments, modify your existing treatment plan and suggest lifestyle changes that can help you to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life day-to-day. They may refer you to a menopause specialist where needed in certain situations, too. 

How can you maintain a healthy weight during menopause? 

“How to lose weight in menopause” is also highly searched, with weight fluctuations being a common symptom. “Slowing metabolism and lower hormones during menopause do affect weight,” explains Dr Roked. 

Her advice for maintaining a healthy lifestyle? “My tips would be to keep exercising, especially strength and weight training, which helps burn fat, and to potentially reduce calories if needed while still maintaining a healthy diet,” says Dr Roked. A healthy diet is also important in helping to prevent osteoporosis, which women are more at risk of following the menopause and especially if they’re taking HRT. “Cutting out alcohol can also help with managing calories and menopause symptoms.”

Photography: Stocksy