Overview - Menopause

Menopause is when a woman stops having periods. It is a natural part of ageing.

Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop. Sometimes they can stop suddenly. In some women, periods can become very heavy in the year coming up to menopause.

When menopause starts

Menopause usually starts between the age of 45 and 55. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51.

Early menopause happens when your periods stop before the age of 45.

But around 1 in 100 women experience menopause before 40 years of age. This is known as premature ovarian insufficiency. If you experience menopause before 45 years of age, this is called premature or early menopause.

Learn more about early menopause

Symptoms of menopause

Symptoms usually start several years before your periods stop. This is known as perimenopause. Symptoms can also last for some time after your periods stop.

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

The length and severity of these symptoms can vary from woman to woman. Every woman experiences menopause differently.

Learn about the common symptoms of menopause

When to contact your GP

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if :

  • you have menopausal symptoms that are worrying you
  • you're experiencing symptoms before age 45
  • your periods have stopped for a year or more before age 45

Your GP can usually confirm if you're menopausal based on your symptoms. If you are under 45, they may take a blood test to check your hormone levels.

If you have a serious medical condition, your GP may refer you to a specialist clinic to help manage your menopausal symptoms. 

Learn more about the complex menopause service at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin

HRT and other treatment

Talk to your GP if you're finding your symptoms particularly difficult. They will be able to help you and can recommend treatments.

Treatment may include:

Your GP may refer you to a menopause specialist if your symptoms do not improve after treatment or if you cannot take HRT.

Learn about HRT and other treatments for menopause

Causes of menopause

As you get older there is a change in the balance of the body's sex hormones. This change causes menopause.

It happens when your ovaries produce less oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month.

Premature or early menopause can happen at any age, and often 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
  • an underlying medical condition, such as Down's syndrome or Addison's disease

Contraception and menopause

Hormonal contraception can affect your periods so you cannot know for sure if you have reached menopause when you're on the contraceptive pill.

Learn more about contraception and menopause

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 19 May 2022
Next review due: 19 May 2025