The menopause – your common questions answered

Lead Physician at Bupa Health Centre Glasgow
15 June 2018

Have you recently joined the large number of middle-aged women experiencing hot flushes, mood swings, night sweats and other body changes? If so, welcome to the menopause – also commonly known as ‘the change’ – which is a normal part of life.

The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones as you get older, and happens to all women. It means that your periods end and you’re no longer able to become pregnant. In the UK the average age for the menopause is around 51 years, but it may start at any time from 45, and some women experience it even sooner. Here I share some practical advice and tips on the menopause in response to common questions and concerns.

How do you know if the menopause has started?

You can normally tell that the menopause has started if you have had no periods for one year, when your ovaries produce less of the hormone oestrogen. This may happen after about four years of irregular periods, known as the perimenopause. Hot flushes are one of the most visible signs that you are in the menopause, and can vary from being mildly uncomfortable to affecting your quality of life.

How does the menopause affect women?

Symptoms of the menopause can last between four and eight years, but many women are too embarrassed to discuss them openly. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, you’re certainly not on your own. According to research, in the UK, nearly three-quarters of women seek advice about menopausal symptoms. Hot flushes and night sweats are symptoms commonly associated with the menopause. Other related symptoms include:

  • irregular periods
  • poor sleep
  • loss of interest in sex
  • mood changes
  • urinary problems
  • fatigue and difficulty concentrating

These problems can impact on the quality of some women’s personal and working lives, and some women can feel unable to discuss their menopausal symptoms if it’s affecting their performance at work.

What can women do to have a better experience of the menopause?

There are lots of different ways that women can help themselves during their menopause.

  • Exercise and eat well. Exercising regularly and having a healthy, balanced diet may improve some of the symptoms in menopausal women, such as sleep and depression.
  • Give up smoking. Giving up smoking may help, as smoking has been associated with an earlier menopause and an increase in hot flushes.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake. As hard as it sounds try reducing your caffeine intake, as caffeine has been linked to women having more frequent flushes.
  • Drink less alcohol. In some women alcohol can trigger hot flushes so you might want to consider limiting your intake.
  • Talk openly to colleagues. If the menopause is affecting your performance at work, talk to your co-workers and line managers, who are there to support you. For example, you may wish to explore other working arrangements that will help you to cope better with your symptoms.

Are there any effective treatments for the menopause?

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) replaces your oestrogen, and is commonly used to treat hot flushes. While hormone treatment (HRT) is helpful for some women in dealing with severe symptoms, many are reluctant to use it because of uncertainty about risks and benefits.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This is a type of talking therapy and can be offered to help reduce anxiety or improve your mood. CBT is also sometimes used to treat depression.
  • Complementary therapies. Supplements such as evening primrose oil, ginseng and soy may be used by some women to ease their menopause symptoms. While some evidence suggests that they might have a benefit, other evidence claims that they don’t work. So do speak to your GP before taking any remedies or supplements.

Even healthy people become unhealthy sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance.

Dr Lynsey Baird
Lead Physician at Bupa Health Centre Glasgow

What would you like us to write about?


Health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care.