In the UK, the average age of menopause, or the last menstrual period, is 51. Many people find, often without realising at first, that they're experiencing symptoms caused by hormonal changes, which can start in your early 40s.
Perimenopause is the period of time where these hormonal changes and symptoms start to occur, up until your last period.
Symptoms of perimenopause
Many people may not associate some of these symptoms with hormonal changes, as a number of them are vague and often linked to normal life events or stresses.
Perimenopause can affect people in different ways, but the symptoms are largely grouped into 5
1. Bleeding problems
Heavy and frequent periods, which can result in anaemia.
2. Vasomotor symptoms
Hot flushes and night sweats, which can disrupt work in the day and sleep in the night.
3. Psychological symptoms
Low mood, brain fog, loss of mental clarity, anxiety, fatigue, memory loss and poor concentration – all of which can have an impact on performance at work.
4. Pelvic symptoms
Also known as genito-urinary syndrome of menopause (GSM):
- Urinary symptoms: Urinary incontinence (UI), vaginal prolapse, and recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Vaginal symptoms: Dryness, irritation and itching
- Sexual symptoms: Pain, impaired function, lack of lubrication and low libido.
5. Physical changes
Hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin, weight gain, bloating, poor sleep and changes in odour.
Menopause symptoms can mean you're at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as:
Help is at hand
If you’re suffering with menopause symptoms, you’re not alone. Talking about it is the first step to taking back control of your quality of life. Ask your GP for help – it may be as simple as revisiting contraception choices, or it may be worth exploring appropriate hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
And if you’re having difficulty coping with the symptoms emotionally, speaking about it with people you trust, or a mental health specialist, can help.
Last updated Thursday 9 March 2023
First published on Friday 29 April 2016