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The menopause is the time when a woman stops having periods and can no longer get pregnant naturally. The ovaries stop releasing eggs and no longer produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

There are three stages of the Menopause:

  • Perimenopause
  • Menopause
  • Post Menopause


Perimenopause is the stage leading up to the menopause and can be characterised by fluctuating hormones. Whilst symptoms may be noticeable, menstrual cycles may remain regular, causing confusion for women who may not recognise these changes as part of the perimenopause. It usually begins during the mid-40s, although it can start earlier.


As the menopause approaches, there is a significant decline in the hormone Oestrogen and it is this reduction that may be responsible for the symptoms that occur during this stage. You reach the menopause when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months. The average age in the UK to reach the menopause is 51.

Both stages can cause symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods. These symptoms can start years before your periods stop and carry on afterwards. Symptoms can vary and may have a profound affect on life, including relationships and work life. Recognising the symptoms can help you to make decisions about how to navigate through the menopause.

Post Menopause

The time after the menopause and you remain in this stage permanently. During post menopause, you will no longer have periods but may continue to experience some symptoms. Maintaining your health is very important to manage your risk factors of osteoporosis and cardiovascular health.

What are the common symptoms?

Menopause and perimenopause symptoms can have a big impact on your daily life, including relationships, social life, family life and work.  It can feel different for everyone. You may have several symptoms or none.  Symptoms usually start months or years before your periods stop.

Symptoms can include:

  • changes to your mood, like low mood, anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem
  • problems with memory or concentration (brain fog)
  • hot flushes
  • difficulty sleeping
  • palpitations, when your heartbeats suddenly become more noticeable
  • headaches and migraines that are worse than usual
  • muscle aches and joint pains
  • changed body shape and weight gain
  • skin changes including dry and itchy skin
  • reduced sex drive
  • vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Healthy Lifestyle

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight can help to alleviate menopausal symptoms.

When to see your GP

If you think you might be experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, consider making an appointment with your GP or Health Care Professional.

Usually, your first consultation will be with your GP or practice nurse, however it is worth asking if there is a dedicated health care professional with expertise in menopause.

If your surgery or health care provider offers extended appointments, consider booking one to ensure you have plenty of time to discuss your concerns. Before attending your appointment, it is a good idea to make a note of any symptoms that you are experiencing. It is also useful to write down any questions or concerns to get the most out of your appointment.

For other information please visit our useful information page.