The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. It usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.

Symptoms of the menopause

The menopause is a natural part of ageing. It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. 

Most women will experience menopausal symptoms. Some of these can be quite severe and have a significant impact on your everyday activities.

Common symptoms include:

Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop. They can last around four years after your last period.  Some women experience the symptoms for much longer.

When to see your GP

It's worth talking to your GP if you have menopausal symptoms that are troubling you. It is also worth talking to your GP if you're experiencing symptoms of the menopause before 45 years of age.

Your GP can usually confirm whether you are menopausal based on your symptoms.  A blood test to measure your hormone levels may be carried out if you're aged 40 to 45.

Blood tests may also be carried out to help diagnose suspected premature menopause. This is if you’re under 40 and undergo menopause.

Treatments for menopausal symptoms

Your GP can offer treatments and suggest lifestyle changes - if you have severe menopausal symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life.

These include:

Your GP can refer you to a menopause specialist if your symptoms don't improve after trying treatment or if you're unable to take HRT.

Causes of the menopause

The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body's sex hormones. This occurs as you get older.

Premature or early menopause can occur at any age, and in many cases, there's no clear cause.

Sometimes it's caused by a treatment such as surgery to remove the ovaries (oophorectomy), some breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or it can be brought on by an underlying medical condition, such as Down's syndrome or Addison's disease.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information, read terms and conditions.

This page was published February 2018

This page is due for review February 2019

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