What is menopause and what are the signs?

With more than thirty recognised symptoms of menopause and growing awareness of the impact on day-to-day life, it can help to know what to look out for and what support is available.
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Around 13 million women are currently perimenopausal or menopausal in the UK. Transgender, non-binary and intersex people can also experience menopause or similar symptoms.

However, research shows many people don't know all the symptoms associated with menopause or perimenopause, what treatments are available or what support they can access. 

What's the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

Menopause is a natural part of the ageing process. Perimenopause, also known as menopausal transition, is the start of this change. 

During this transition, your body's production of oestrogen and progesterone drops off, so you may notice a change in your periods. You may also experience some symptoms of menopause.

Perimenopause often happens between the ages of 45 and 55. 

Some people may go through this transition in their thirties, known as early menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). Sometimes, medical conditions or treatments can cause early menopause.  

You enter the menopause once you've gone twelve months without a period.

What are the symptoms of perimenopause? 

Some of the symptoms you may get: 

  • Periods that are heavier or lighter than usual 
  • Hot flashes, nausea, or dizzy spells 
  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
  • Needing to urinate more frequently

What are the symptoms of menopause? 

You will be in menopause after twelve months without a period. As well as symptoms you may have during perimenopause, you may also experience: 

  • Changes to your mood and low self-esteem 
  • Problems with memory or concentration (brain fog)
  • Difficulty sleeping and night sweats
  • Palpitations
  • Headaches or migraines more frequently or worse than usual
  • Muscle aches and joint pains
  • Changes to your body shape and weight gain
  • Skin changes, including dry and itchy skin
  • Reduced sex drive or discomfort during sex
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Help paying for hormone therapy

As of April 1, 2023, many forms of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are covered under an HRT Prepayment Prescription Certificate 

Check if you are eligible 

What HRT treatments are available?  

There are different ways to manage menopause symptoms. The most common is HRT, which can be: 

  • Tablets  
  • Skin patches 
  • Oestrogen gel 
  • Implants 
  • Vaginal oestrogen 
  • Testosterone gel 
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Other treatment options

Other treatments are available to help with specific symptoms of menopause.

As your body changes, you may need to adjust your habits, routines or lifestyle to manage symptoms and protect your physical and mental wellbeing. 

Discuss your options with your healthcare provider or support network to ensure you find the right HRT treatment

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. Alongside healthcare staff, it's important to have a personal support network of friends, family and colleagues who can help you get through this phase of life. 

Want more support? 

If you want to know more about what you should expect from perimenopause and menopause, what support is available to you and advice on managing symptoms, check out these helpful resources: