The menopause is a natural part of aging that happens when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs, leading to a decline in the reproductive hormones that they produce (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone). It refers to when a woman has not had her period for 12 consecutive months.
It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age for women in the UK being 51. However, around 1 in 100 women experience menopause before the age of 40, and this is known as pre-mature menopause.
The transition period leading up to the menopause is the perimenopause, and can last for a few months or several years. During this time, periods may become lighter/more irregular and other symptoms can start to emerge.
Short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty.
Tips to help cope with hot flushes:
- wear cotton clothing rather than man-made fibres
- wear loose thin layers of clothing that you can easily remove if you get too warm. Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
- keep your bedroom temperature fairly cool at night by using a fan or keeping the window open. Have layers of sheets on the bed, rather than a duvet, so you can remove them as you need to
- swap coffee and tea for cold or iced drinks
- stop smoking
- spray your face with cool water or use a cold gel pack (available from pharmacies)
- cut down on alcohol
- have lukewarm showers rather than hot ones
Difficulty sleeping and night sweats
Hot flushes that occur at night this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day.
Tips to help cope with disturbed sleeping difficulties:
- avoid napping during the day to catch up on sleep as this will disrupt your sleeping pattern
- exercising during the day can both help with your mood and tire you enough to make you have a better night's sleep
- avoid looking at screens, smoking, eating rich/spicy meals, alcohol and caffeine in the hours before bed
- try to maintain a regular sleep routine that let's your brain know that you're ready for sleep
Mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
Tips to help boost your mood
- take a look at our Low Mood page for information and resources to help boost your mood
- take a look at our Anxiety page to help you with your worries
- talk to family, friends and colleagues about how you are feeling
Further physical symptoms:
- A reduced sex drive (libido)
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
- Palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
- Joint stiffness, aches and pains
- Reduced muscle mass
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
The peri-menopause stage
The peri-menopausal stage describes the period of hormonal change leading up to the menopause. For some, this stage can last for several years, while for others, it will last for only a few months.
During this stage, the levels of hormones produced by the ovaries fluctuate, which can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle (for example, the time between periods, how long each period lasts, as well as changes to the flow). These hormonal changes within the body can cause a wide range of symptoms to occur. While these symptoms differ from person to person, there are some common ones that we have listed below in the drop down menus.
The below video from Women's Health UK provides the the essential facts all women should be aware of when navigating their late thirties and beyond.
Menopause and the workplace
The NHS workforce is over 1.3 million strong and 76.5% of the workforce (over 1 million) are women. Women between the ages of 45 and 54 who are likely to be going through the menopause transition make up 1 in 5 of the entire NHS workforce, over 260,000 women.
Most women describe that they need further advice and support about the menopause and work, with many describing that they feel under-equipped to deal with their symptoms and the way they are affected at work.
Women frequently report that they do not feel comfortable disclosing their symptoms to their manager and that they feel they have to work hard to conceal and overcome symptoms at work. Work places traditionally have not been designed with menopausal women in mind.
The vision of the NHS Menopause Programme is to create a supportive working environment that champions the wellbeing of women and others affected by the menopause transition, so they stay and thrive in the workplace whist going through the menopause.
The Menopause awareness elearning session will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. It will give learners an overview of what the menopause is, the common symptoms associated with it, and scenarios which will help our people better understand the ways in which they can help support themselves and each other.
This elearning is designed for all colleagues in the workforce. Whether you are a person transitioning through the menopause, or if you are looking for information to help you support a colleague, employee, friend or relative who is experiencing symptoms of the menopause.
Click here to access the NHS menopause awareness programme.
This editable workbook is to help you work out what's right for you and plan your next steps.
This resource provides information on understanding the menopause, and is aimed at NHS organisations and teams.
Dr Louise Newson, her colleagues and expert guests discuss a wide range of menopause-related topics to give listeners unbiased, evidence-based and holistic information and advice to help them and their loved ones manage the symptoms and challenges of the menopause and perimenopause.
Diane Danzebrink and Sophie C talk frankly and openly about all things menopause.
This guidance helps NHS organisations, line managers, and those working in the NHS understand more about the menopause, how they can support colleagues at work and those experiencing menopause symptoms.
Information on how menopause can affect women at work, and practical guidance for employers on how to improve workplace environments for them.
A guide for line managers and all staff.
This workbook provides knowledge and understanding around menopause and where to signpost support and help.
Download this menopause friendly workplace checklist - why not print and display this in areas such as the women's toilet?
- We are Daisy Network: Dedicated to providing information and support to women diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency, also known as Premature Menopause.
- Healthtalk: On this webpage you can watch other people share their stories of going through menopause.
- Women's Health Concern: The patient arm of the British Menopause Society (BMS). They provide a confidential, independent service to advise, reassure and educate women of all ages about their gynaecological and sexual health, wellbeing and lifestyle concerns.
- Henpicked: One of the UK's fastest growing websites for women over 40, sharing helpful information, top tips and wisdom: happiness, health, wealth, and menopause.
Dr Guy Meadows, Clinical Psychologist and Co-founder of Sleep School delivered a one-hour webinar on the effects menopause and hormone symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia and restless legs has on sleep.
Watch the webinar recording by visiting the Sleep School platform and use the code kwblmk123
With 42% of menopausal women showing signs of insomnia, the session began with a poll asking participants to score how well they sleep at night, poll results showed over 45% responded that they ‘mostly have poor nights sleep’.
Many staff members during the session mentioned how brain fog and anxiety from having menopause has impacted their sleep most nights.
Dr Guy Meadows invited staff to think about self-kindness techniques and what they would say to a friend/colleague struggling with menopause.
Find out more about Sleep School here.