Skip to content Skip to footer

Women’s Health – Menopause 101

Why should we talk about menopause?

It is estimated that around 13 million women are currently peri or menopausal in the UK alone (Wellbeing of Women) – that’s equal to one third of the entire UK female population. How is it then, menopause still remains such a taboo subject?

Lack of understanding is largely to blame. We need educate, create more awareness and get more comfortable talking about it. Many women feel uncomfortable discussing their experiences. Yet, for the majority of women, it isn’t plain sailing and the symptoms of menopause can have a significant impact on their quality of life

What is the menopause?

The menopause is the moment when a woman permanently stops menstruating and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally (NHS). It is usually diagnosed after going 12 months without having menstrual periods (it is a retrospective diagnosis).

However, we often use this term incorrectly to refer to what is called ‘peri-menopause’, the period of time leading to the menopause, when a woman starts experiencing various symptoms such as hot flushes, irregular periods, fatigue, night sweats, vaginal dryness, etc. While the phase after the menopause (12 months after the periods stop) is called ‘post-menopause’.

Menopause is a natural transition and not a medical illness. Did you know that in nature we are only one of three creatures known to experience it? The others are killer whales and short-finned pilot whales.

Why does it happen?

A female is born with over a million eggs in her ovaries. Every month, one is released. This process is triggered by hormones, including progesterone and estrogen (or oestrogen).

As a woman ages, her production of estrogen in the ovaries becomes irregular and declines, until it stops completely. This obviously doesn’t happen overnight. It can take several years for estrogen levels to fall and it is believed that most menopausal symptoms are in fact, primarily triggered by an estrogen deficiency. This can make women more vulnerable to bone diseases (osteopenia and osteoporosis) and hearth disease, however there is treatment available, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

As a woman ages, her production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries becomes irregular and declines, until it stops completely.

As said previously, symptoms usually commence several years before a woman actually reaches the menopause: this is known as the peri-menopausal stage. During this stage it is likely that you will notice changes to your menstrual cycle. Most commonly, you will have irregular periods, skipping months or becoming more frequent and heavy, although some women continue to menstruate monthly until their last period, though they will have other menopausal symptoms.

How long does it last?

The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age in the UK being 51 (NHS). Some women will, however, be older or younger. It very much depends on their genetics and medical situation.

Around 1 in 100 women experience a premature menopause before the age of 40. In some exceptional cases women may become peri-menopausal or menopausal in their 30s, or even younger. An early menopause can be brought on by various factors, including surgery to remove the ovaries or womb (hysterectomy) and certain forms of treatment (chemotherapy and radiotherapy). Though, some women menopause early naturally.

On average, symptoms last for 4 years. Unfortunately, some women continue to report on problematic symptoms 15 years on (NHS). Common symptoms may initially go unnoticed, such as mood swings and anxiety due to hormonal decline. People can easily mistake the symptoms of peri-menopause for other conditions.

Most people feel worn out by the time their menopause is confirmed, if they haven’t received the support they need.

  • In a study conducted by the British Menopause Society (2016), 50% of women said they experienced severe debilitating symptoms that impacted their home life. More than a third of the respondents said they impacted their work, social and sex lives as well. 10% said they felt depressed.
  • According to Avon‘s recent report (2020), menopausal women in the UK often feel unsure (45%), anxious (34%), not informed (28%).

All indicates there is a general lack of support and understanding. That needs to change!

If you are trying to make sense of some symptoms that could be peri-menopausal, if you are worried about your fertility, or if you just want to check your hormone levels, you can book a quick home blood test or one of our health assessment for further support.

Female hormone mapping through regular blood testing can be incredibly useful. It helps understand what your average hormone levels are and quickly identify any changes, imbalances and possible health issues.

Here are some of the female hormone blood tests we recommend:

A simple, five-point test to assess your menopausal status.

A simple, at-home blood test to check your ovarian reserve and menopausal status.

This is our complete, essential health check for women, including liver and kidney function tests, cholesterol, iron deficiency and hormone testing.

This is our comprehensive female hormone check to examine your hormonal balance, which impacts fertility, mood and menstruation cycle.

A test to measure your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

A test to measure your follicle-stimulating hormone levels (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) – both hormones of the reproductive system

A simple blood test to measure the Anti-Mullerian hormone which is used to measure ovarian reserve in women.

If you want to get a fuller picture, book one of our health assessments which combine blood tests, lifestyle analysis and coaching to better understand your overall health at UK Health Screening – Health Assessments.

If you want to read more about the menopause and speak with a Menopause Doula, please visit: The Menopause Directory & School

Read more: Creating Behaviour Change