Learn more about the menopause

Menopause is a natural biological process, marking the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility. It's a transition that can bring various physical and emotional symptoms, although every woman's journey is unique. We've compiled a wealth of content designed to support you during this transition, from perimenopause through to post-menopause. Expect to find articles exploring the signs and stages of menopause, as well as ways to enhance your diet, sleep, fitness and overall lifestyle.

The three stages of menopause

Dr. Fionnuala Barton breaks down your menopause biochemistry

Perimenopause



On average, perimenopause lasts 4-8 years, but it can start up to 10 or even 15 years in advance of menopause.

Perimenopause occurs as your finite ovarian reserves are drained, and the amount of oestrogen produced becomes less predictable.

Throughout perimenopause, levels diminish to reach the low levels we see at menopause and beyond.

 

Menopause



Menopause is defined as the point at which a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months.

This is ultimately a singular point in time and often something we only recognise when looking back.

The ‘average’ age of menopause is around 48-52, so symptoms of perimenopause can start in our 30s or 40s.

 

 

Post-menopause



After menopause, once your ovarian reserve has been exhausted, there are no more follicles to mature for ovulation.

The ovaries effectively stop functioning. Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels are low, so symptoms tend to be long-standing and progressive over time.

 

 

 

Navigate through the noise

Find menopause products and solutions that enhance your everyday

Cervical screenings in menopause

Dr. Clare Spencer explains how crucial it is to regularly attend your screening appointments, while providing tips on managing concerns around your sexual health during menopause.

Hot Flush
Hot Flush

Hot flushes in menopause

Dr. Lindsay Thomas explains why this common menopause symptom occurs

What are hot flushes?

Hot flushes and night sweats are just two of the symptoms of the menopause, but often the most talked about - probably because most women will experience them in one way or another. They are often the lightbulb moment that this is indeed the menopause.

As with all menopause symptoms their impact is very individual, with some women only experiencing them every now and then, and others finding the frequency and severity can significantly impact on day-to-day life, work and sleep.

It can be wrongly thought that women can’t be menopausal unless they have them, but a small proportion of women won’t experience them at all.

What do hot flushes feel like?

Most women describe a hot flush as a warmth or intense heat which spreads up through the body, mainly affecting the chest and face. This is often associated with facial flushing (hence the name), and for some women, sweating.

Some women will only have their symptoms at night or a combination of both day and night. Symptoms at night tend to be sweatier, but not for everyone, and women can wake up with soaking wet hair, bedcovers and night clothes.

After a hot flush, women can also feel a chill. Sometimes women only experience ‘cold’ flushes, where they will feel shivery and cold but without the warmth before.

Why do hot flushes happen?

The exact reason of isn’t fully understood, but it is thought that fluctuating levels of oestrogen disrupt the temperature control centre in the brain, the hypothalamus. This means that only small changes in temperature result in a bigger reaction from the body to cool itself down

It’s important to recognise that symptoms can start during perimenopause, with the most intense symptoms occurring in the year following the last period. Symptoms usually last anywhere up to seven years beyond this.

How can hot flushes be alleviated?

Although hot flushes can happen spontaneously, they can also be set off by certain things. Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods, as well as a change in temperature. Stress and anxiety can also make things worse; even anticipating a hot flush can bring one on.

It helps to keep a diary of when yours are happening and if there’s a pattern so that you can see if there are any changes you can make which might be helpful. Even just being aware of when you might expect to have one can make you feel more in control.

Hot Flush
Hot Flush

Sleep changes in menopause

Dr. Kat Lederle explores how menopause can disrupt and alter our sleep

How sleep changes affect women

Sleep disruption is a common and difficult experience for women transitioning menopause. Between 40% to 60% of women in midlife report sleep disturbances, and many of these women struggle to stay asleep during the night. And the consequence? Feeling exhausted, tired and unable to function as you feel you should. Understandably, many women also report feelings of frustration and anxiety.

Why does sleep change?

One of the hallmarks of the menopausal transition is fluctuating levels of your ovarian hormones. Not only do they fluctuate, most also decline over time, particularly oestrogen and progesterone. Both hormones affect a range of different cells in the body including areas in the brain involved in the regulation of sleep.

But when their levels fluctuate and diminish, they are sending mixed or very weak messages to the sleep regulatory system. Brain areas responsible for keeping you awake or asleep, respectively, become confused and don’t know when to promote what. The potential outcome? Sleep disruption.

Putting sleep changes into context

While sleep is a biological process, it doesn’t happen in isolation from the rest of your life. Ageing can impact our ability to sleep through the night.

Mood, and in particular depression can also affect sleep. Not only are menopausal women at a higher risk of developing depression, there’s a bi-directional relationship between the mood disorder and poor sleep. Stress is another complex factor during the menopause. Midlife women face various physiological and social changes, and for some these can be a source of distress.

Maximising your sleep

There are two important sleep myths to bust: not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep. And sleeping before midnight does not necessarily give you the best sleep either. Instead, we all have our personal sleep window made up of (1) how much sleep you need and (2) when your body clock says it is time for sleep.

Your body clock, a tiny area located in the hypothalamus in your brain, sets the timing for when you sleep and when you are awake. Because this internal clock ticks slightly differently between different people, some of us like to go to bed early and wake up early, while others naturally want to go to bed later and therefore wake up later in the morning.

To give yourself the best chance of good quality sleep, allow your body to rest within the sleep window as allocated by your body clock.

Sleep and nutrition in menopause

Karen Newby talks about switching up your meals and maintaining optimum nutrition in menopause, and how this can help support your symptoms and improve energy levels.

Visit Menopause Your Way

Visit the Menopause Your Way page

Shop menopause products

Shop all Menopause Your Way products