What Exactly Is Menopause?

by | Nov 10, 2021 | Sexual & Reproductive Health

Menopause or ‘change of life’ as some may call it, springs to mind the end of a period and hot flushes galore. Most of us will experience it, yet what exactly is it?

As always, we’re here to educate. Let us take you on a journey into the future of what happens when your period ends and what to expect.

What is menopause?

Menopause is when ovulation no longer occurs and the production of oestrogen progesterone ceases. The word ‘menopause’ refers to the final period experienced. When no period has occurred for 12 consecutive months this is known as postmenopausal.

The age this starts to happen is usually around 45 – 55, however some may experience peri-menopause symptoms as early as their 30s.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause refers to the lead up to menopause when irregular periods can occur. Cycles can be shorter or longer in length.

Symptoms of perimenopause can include:

  • Sore breasts
  • Hot flushes
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • crawling or itching sensations under the skin
  • forgetfulness
  • headaches
  • Irritability
  • Night sweats

Some women can experience symptoms for 5-10 years before their final period. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict the age this will start and how long it will last.

What causes Menopause?

Natural menopause

Menopause occurs naturally when a woman’s ovaries no longer have any eggs to release, and its symptoms are caused by a drop in the levels of the hormone oestrogen.

Early menopause

Early (or premature) menopause can occur due to:

  • treatments that stop ovaries from functioning, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer
  • surgery to remove a woman’s ovaries (oophorectomy)
  • surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) in some cases
  • primary ovarian insufficiency
  • some unknown cause — for 6 in 10 women with early menopause, the cause is unknown

The Pill and Perimenopause

While the main reason to take birth control pills is to prevent pregnancy, it turns out that the Pill can also act as a treatment for women in perimenopause to manage irregular periods, hot flashes, and night sweats.

As women age, the balance between the pituitary gland that excretes follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and the ovary that excretes oestrogen is all over the place, which is why the Pill can assist with these hormones.

Though it’s important to note that the Pill won’t stop menopause, it just helps with the nasty symptoms that come with it.

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)

Previously known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and also known as hormone therapy (HT) – MHT effectively reduces many of the unpleasant symptoms & effects of menopause. MHT may be appropriate for use in women with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms

For women who have undergone a premature menopause, some form of hormone therapy is recommended until the age of 50 years, unless there is a health reason for not using hormone therapy.

There are many different forms of MHT. The advice from international experts is that the benefits of MHT far outweigh the risks for healthy women around the time of menopause. If you are thinking about taking MHT, it is important to discuss this with your doctor to know if it’s right for you.


This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.

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