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Breaking the taboo: what the menopause means in numbers

There’s a lot of information to take in about the menopause, so we’ve broken it down into the essential facts and stats you need to make sense of it all

Written by Cheryl Freedman on December 29, 2018 Reviewed by Dr Heather Currie on January 7, 2019

Like puberty or pregnancy, menopause is a natural stage of life for women. But it’s still shrouded in mystery; very few women know exactly what to expect. These simple statistics will help you – or anyone else – get your head around what’s going on inside your body.

When do women go through menopause?

Between the ages of 45 and 55.1 Menopause means your ovaries stop producing eggs and hormones, oestrogen levels fall, and you stop having periods so you can no longer get pregnant naturally.2 You’ve officially gone through the menopause when you’ve had no periods for 1 year.3

What’s the average age for menopause?

In the UK, it’s 51. But one in 100 women go through it before the age of 40, known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.4 A late menopause is after 55.5

How do I know if I’m going through menopause?

Early signs are unpredictable periods – a 2012 study found changes in women's menstrual cycles started on average 6 to 8 years before menopause.6 Flow varies, too – it can be much heavier or lighter than usual.

Your GP can carry out a blood test to confirm changing hormone levels, which may be useful if you’re under 45 but is not recommended if you’re over 45.7

How many menopause symptoms will I get?

Most women experience around 7 symptoms, according to a survey by the British Menopause Society.8

What are the most common menopause symptoms?

8 in 10 (80%) women get the infamous hot flushes – an overwhelming feeling of heat, which spreads throughout the body.9 Some experience them several times a day, while others only have occasional episodes.

Other common symptoms10 include:
  • night sweats (70%)
  • insomnia (22%)
  • achy joints (18%)
  • issues with memory and concentration (20%)

Less well-known symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, low mood, fatigue, heart palpitations, vaginal dryness, bladder weakness and loss of libido.

Do all women get all the symptoms?

1 in 5 (20%) women don’t get any menopause symptoms at all, but most women will get some.11

How long does menopause last?

On average, symptoms continue for 5 to 7 years after your last period. However, 42% of women aged 60-65 still experience symptoms such as hot flushes.12

What about post-menopause symptoms?

Post-menopausal women have a higher risk of developing 2 conditions: osteoporosis and heart disease. Oestrogen helps protects against both, so lower oestrogen levels increase your risk.13,14 Bladder and vaginal symptoms also increase after the menopause, and may get worse over time.

What’s can I take for menopause symptoms?

Experts say the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms is replacing lost oestrogen with prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT). NICE, the government body that recommends all drugs and therapies on the NHS, says HRT should be offered as the first-line treatment for menopause symptoms.15

What are the best herbal menopause remedies?

If you don’t want to go down the HRT route for any reason, there are a number of natural solutions you can choose from instead. Here are 5 of the most popular herbal remedies for menopause:

  • Black cohosh – the European Medicines Agency reports that black cohosh can be ‘used to treat menopause complaints such as hot flushes and excessive sweating’.16

  • Red clover – this herb contains compounds that mimic oestrogen in the body.17 A 2016 review of trials found that red clover could reduce the number of hot flushes, especially in women who had more than 5 severe hot flushes a day.18

  • Agnus castus – another clinical review, carried out in 2009, concluded that there was enough ‘emerging pharmacological evidence’ to support a role foragnus castus in the management of menopausal symptoms.19

  • St John’s Wort – an assessment by the European Medicines Council noted that St John’s Wort 'improved psychological symptoms', and could treat anxiety 'particularly if associated with menopause'.20

  • Sea buckthorn oil - this oil, rich in omega-7, has been shown to improve vaginal thinning and lubrication, and may be useful for women who cannot use oestrogen for vaginal atrophy.21

Talk to your GP or a healthcare professional before taking any herbal remedies to tackle your menopause symptoms.

Which lifestyle tips can help?

Limit your intake of hot drinks and spicy foods, as these can trigger hot flushes. And make sure you keep exercising – a small study by Penn State University, US, in 2012 found women who exercise experienced fewer hot flushes for 24 hours after a workout,22 while a 2014 study published in the journal Menopause revealed that 12 weeks of weeks of aerobic activity reduced insomnia and depression in midlife women.23

Shop Menopause Relief Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

Sources
1. NHS. Menopause. Available from: www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
2. As above
3. NHS. Post-menopausal Bleeding. Available from: www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-menopausal-bleeding/
4. As Source 1
5. Healthline. Late onset menopause. Available from: www.healthline.com/health/menopause/late-onset#1
6. Harlow SD, Paramsothy P. Menstruation and the menopause transition. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3232023/
7. As Source 1
8. British Menopause Society. National survey – the results. Available from: www.thebms.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/BMS-NationalSurvey-MARCH2017.pdf
9. As above
10. As Source 8
11. NHS. Menopause symptoms. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/symptoms/
12. Gartoulla P, et al. Moderate to severe vasomotor and sexual symptoms remain problematic for women aged 60 to 65 years. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706184
13. NHS. Menopause and your bone health. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/menopause-and-your-bone-health/
14. British Heart Foundation. Menopause and heart disease. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/women-with-a-heart-condition/menopause-and-heart-disease
15. NICE. Menopause: diagnosis and management. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23/chapter/Recommendations#managing-short-term-menopausal-symptoms
16. European Medicines Agency. Black cohosh. Available from: https://www.ema.europa.eu/documents/herbal-summary/black-cohosh-summary-public_en.pdf
17. Healthline. Red clover as an herbal treatment for hot flushes. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/red-clover-menopause
18. Ghazanfarpour M, et al. Red clover for treatment of hot flashes and menopausal symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26471215
19. van Die MD, et al. Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste-Tree/Berry) in the treatment of menopause-related complaints. Available from: http://anyflip.com/kfvb/wlzq/basic
20. European Medicines Agency. Assessment report on Hypericum Perforatum. Available from: www.ema.europa.eu/documents/herbal-report/assessment-report-hypericum-perforatum-l-herba_en.pdf
21. Larmo PS et al. Effects of sea buckthorn oil intake on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Found at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378512214002394
22. Elavsky S, et al. Effects of Physical Activity on Vasomotor Symptoms: Examination Using Objective and Subjective Measures. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3460032/

23. Sternfeld B, et al. Efficacy of Exercise for menopausal symptoms: a randomized
Menopause