Overview - Menopause

The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.

The menopause is a natural part of ageing. It usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. The average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.

But around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age. This is known as premature or early menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.

Symptoms of the menopause

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

Common symptoms include:

  • hot flushes
  • night sweats
  • vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
  • difficulty sleeping
  • low mood or anxiety
  • reduced sex drive (libido)
  • problems with memory and concentration

Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop. They can last around 4 years after your last period. Some women have them for much longer.

When to contact your GP

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if :

  • you have menopausal symptoms that are troubling you
  • you're experiencing symptom before 45 years of age

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.

Treatments for menopausal symptoms

Your GP can recommend treatments and lifestyle changes if you have severe menopausal symptoms.

These include:

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

Causes of menopause

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

It happens when your ovaries produce less oestrogen (a hormone) 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.

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.

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