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HealthInfo Canterbury

About menopause

Menopause is a natural process that happens in all women. Most women go through menopause around the age of 50, but this varies between women.

Menopause happens because your ovaries stop producing eggs and oestrogen (the main female hormone) as you age. Eventually, your periods stop. This happens suddenly in some women, while in other women it happens more gradually – their periods become more irregular over several years before they eventually stop.

This time when periods become irregular before finally stopping is called peri-menopause.

Some women have physical and emotional symptoms during peri-menopause and menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, and poor sleeping. These are caused by the falling level of oestrogen n your body. However, symptoms vary between women, and some women have no symptoms at all.

Premature (or early) menopause happens when a women's periods stop before the age of 40. If this happens to you, it's important that you see your GP.

Important

Heavy periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding after sex are not part of menopause and are always a reason to see your GP.

You should also see your GP if you start bleeding again after not having a period for 12 months or more.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Every woman is different and has a different combination of symptoms. However, common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping (insomnia).

Some women may also notice:

Some women don't have symptoms for long, while for others they can last several years. Many women still have hot flushes four years after their last period.

Do I need any tests?

Most women don't need any tests to confirm they are going through menopause. However, you may need some blood tests to check your hormone levels if you are younger than 45 and going through menopause.

Do I need to continue using contraception?

If you are under 50 you still need to use contraception for two years after your last period. If you are over 50 you still need to use contraception for one year after your last period. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not a contraceptive.

On the next page: Managing menopause symptoms

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Canterbury DHB. November 2016.

Sources

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Review key: HIMNP-12236