The menopause

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods stop permanently and they
are no longer able to bear children.

Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any vaginal bleeding for a year. The average age of menopause is 51
years old. Premature menopause is defined as under the age of 40.

There is no way to predict when an individual woman will have the menopause or begin having symptoms suggestive of menopause. Greater than one year without periods is known as postmenopausal.

Before the menopause, women often experience hot flushes, which typically last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and may be associated with shivering, sweating and reddening of the skin.

Hot flushes often stop occurring after a year or two.

Menopause is usually a natural change. It can occur earlier in those who smoke tobacco. Other causes include surgery, which removes both ovaries, or some types of chemotherapy.

Menopause happens because of a decrease in the ovaries production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Tests are usually needed to make a diagnosis, but hormone levels can be measured in the blood.

Specific treatment is not usually needed. Some symptoms, however, may be improved with treatment.

With respect to hot flushes, avoiding smoking, caffeine and alcohol is often recommended.
Sleeping in a cool room and using a fan may help.

There are medications that may also help including hormone
replacement therapy (HRT). While HRT was once routinely prescribed, it is now only recommended for those with significant symptoms, as there are concerns about side effects.

Although there is no evidence for the effectiveness of alternative medicine, some women find them helpful, eg black cohosh.

  • Dr Katharine Martin MB.BS, DRCOG, MRCGP from Howick House Medical talks about menopause and its effects.