Menopause FAQs

When does menopause start?

Well, that’s something of a tricky question, because officially menopause only lasts one day. 

Wait, what? 

Yep, it’s defined as 12 months to the day after the end of your last period and it will happen on average at age 51 for women in the Western world. 

Everything else we hear about is actually peri-menopause and post-menopause. 

Fantastic, I hear you say, so what’s all the fuss about?

Well, what we generally think of as “menopause” is actually the whole transitional life phase between around 45 and 60 years old (give or take a few years, and with lots of exceptions).

During this time our hormone levels (mainly oestrogen and progesterone but also testosterone, believe it or not) first start to fluctuate and then decline dramatically, which has all sorts of effects on our bodies and our brains.

Luckily, there are things we can do to make this “second puberty” (that’s how I describe my experience of it) as comfortable as possible, and use the positive aspects of it to bring with us into the next phase of our lives.

And even more luckily, people are starting to talk about it. What has been a taboo subject for so many years has now gone mainstream and women everywhere are getting together and talking about their experiences. 

Like in a recent online Menopause Meet-up group I facilitated, with participants from Germany, Ireland, the US and France. Five women from very different cultures and backgrounds came together once a week for five weeks to share our stories and put together a toolkit for this life transition.

Here’s what they said about the experience:

Susan creates a friendly atmosphere where I’ve felt more and more comfortable over the weeks. She gives tools to help us navigate this period and she knows how to engage each member of the group, especially by drawing on our strengths. This is a great experience and I trust that it will be very useful in weeks and months to come.

Elisabeth F.

The Menopause Mentor group was a very rewarding experience. It was unlike anything I have done before, and I felt very comfortable in a safe, non-judgy environment, even with a group of people I hadn’t known before. I’d strongly recommend this for anyone going through menopause who wants the support of other women and under Susan’s empathic guidance.

Geraldine K.

Susan’s group has helped me learn more about what I am experiencing at this phase of life, and to deal with the questions and anxiety surrounding it. She provides a structure where women can share knowledge and their personal experiences, as well as support each other. I’ve learned a lot of valuable and practical exercises in how to manage the symptoms and emotions I’m experiencing, and it is very empowering.

Jennifer K.

Right from the beginning Susan made me feel at ease. With a variety of exercises and tasks she keeps everyone engaged as well as excited. In the safe space that Susan created I enjoy the depth of the conversation. I learn a lot by listening to what others share, and get many impulses to question my own thought and belief systems.

Ashema W.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

The symptoms of menopause can vary widely and include:

  • Irregular periods – periods that are lighter, heavier, shorter, or longer than usual, or periods that come closer together or farther apart.
  • Hot flushes – a sudden feeling of warmth or heat that spreads throughout the body, often accompanied by sweating and flushing.
  • Night sweats – hot flushes that occur during sleep, leading to sweatiness and waking up feeling overheated.
  • Vaginal dryness – a decrease in oestrogen levels can cause vaginal tissues to become thin, dry, and less elastic, leading to discomfort, itching, and pain during sex.
  • Mood changes – hormonal changes during menopause can lead to mood swings, irritability, depression, and anxiety.
  • Sleep problems – difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, often due to night sweats or hot flushes.
  • Fatigue – feeling tired or lacking energy, often due to disrupted sleep.
  • Changes in libido – a decrease in oestrogen levels can lead to a decrease in sexual desire or changes in sexual function.

Other symptoms that women may experience during menopause include headaches, joint pain, bone fractures, memory problems, thinning hair, and urinary incontinence.

What is the difference between menopause and perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional stage leading up to menopause, while menopause is defined as the point at which a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

Both stages are marked by a decrease in oestrogen production and can cause a range of symptoms.

Why does menopause occur?

Women’s bodies go through a variety of natural changes as we age. 

As we approach our late 30s and early 40s, our ovaries gradually begin to produce less oestrogen, the hormone responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and supporting fertility.

This reduction in oestrogen production continues until the ovaries no longer produce enough oestrogen to trigger ovulation and menstruation, which typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55.

How does menopause affect your brain?

Menopause can have various effects on the brain due to the changes in hormone levels that occur during this time.

Some of the ways that menopause can affect the brain include:

Why does menopause cause weight gain?

Menopause can cause weight gain due to a combination of hormonal changes, aging, and lifestyle factors. One of the primary factors contributing to weight gain during menopause is the decrease in oestrogen production, which can lead to a redistribution of body fat from the hips and thighs to the abdomen. This increase in abdominal fat can increase the risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Other factors that can contribute to weight gain during menopause include:

  • Decreased muscle mass – As women age, they tend to lose muscle mass, which can slow down metabolism and make it easier to gain weight.
  • Lifestyle factors – Changes in lifestyle habits such as decreased physical activity, poor diet, and increased stress can also contribute to weight gain during menopause.
  • Insulin resistance – Changes in hormone levels during menopause can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body is less able to use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. This can lead to increased fat storage and weight gain.
  • Sleep problems – Sleep disturbances such as insomnia and sleep apnea are common during menopause and can contribute to weight gain.

While weight gain during menopause can be frustrating, there are various strategies that can help manage weight and improve overall health. These include regular exercise, a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, stress reduction techniques such as meditation, breathwork or yoga, and getting adequate sleep.

How does menopause affect your hair?

Menopause can have a variety of effects on hair, including changes in texture, thickness, and growth patterns.

Some women may notice their hair becoming thinner or more brittle, while others may experience increased hair growth in unwanted areas such as the chin or upper lip.

Here are some of the ways menopause can affect hair:

  • Thinning hair – As oestrogen levels decline during menopause, hair follicles may shrink and produce thinner, finer hair. This can result in overall thinning of the hair, especially at the crown or along the part line.
  • Dry, brittle hair – Menopause can also cause changes in the sebaceous glands that produce the scalp’s natural oils. This can lead to dry, brittle hair that is more prone to breakage.
  • Hair loss – While some hair thinning is normal during menopause, some women may experience more significant hair loss or shedding. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, stress, and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Unwanted hair growth – Menopause can cause an increase in androgens, male hormones that can cause hair growth in unwanted areas such as the face, chin, and upper lip.
  • Changes in hair texture – Some women may notice changes in the texture of their hair during menopause. For example, curly hair may become straighter, or straight hair may become more curly.

While menopause can have a variety of effects on hair, there are various treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve hair health.

These may include medications, dietary supplements, topical treatments, and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and stress reduction techniques.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider or dermatologist if you have concerns about changes in your hair during menopause.

Why does menopause affect sleep?

Menopause can have a significant impact on sleep quality and quantity for many women. This is due to a variety of factors related to hormonal changes and other physical symptoms that can disrupt sleep. Here are some of the reasons why menopause can affect sleep:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats – Hot flushes and night sweats are common symptoms of menopause that can disrupt sleep by causing frequent awakenings and discomfort.
  • Hormonal changes – As oestrogen levels decline during menopause, this can also affect the levels of other hormones that regulate sleep, such as melatonin and cortisol. This can lead to changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Sleep apnea – Menopause can also increase the risk of sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep. This can cause snoring, gasping, and frequent awakenings throughout the night.
  • Mood changes – Menopause can also lead to mood changes such as depression and anxiety, which can interfere with sleep quality and quantity.
  • Restless leg syndrome – Some women may experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) during menopause, a condition in which there is an irresistible urge to move the legs. This can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep.

To improve sleep during menopause, there are a variety of strategies that can be helpful.

These include practicing good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol, establishing a regular sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.

Other methods include hormone therapy, medication for hot flushes or sleep apnea, and relaxation techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are experiencing significant sleep disturbances during menopause.

What is the link between menopause and osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, making them more prone to fractures.

Menopause is a major risk factor for osteoporosis because of the significant hormonal changes that occur during this time.

Oestrogen plays a key role in bone health.

It helps to maintain bone density by slowing down the process of bone breakdown and stimulating bone formation.

During menopause, oestrogen levels decline sharply, which can lead to accelerated bone loss and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

To help prevent or manage osteoporosis during menopause, there are several strategies that can be helpful. These include:

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements – Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for bone health. Taking supplements can help ensure that you are getting enough of these nutrients in your diet.
  • Regular exercise – Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, and strength training can help to build and maintain bone density.
  • Hormone therapy – Hormone therapy can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis by replacing the oestrogen that is lost during menopause.
  • Medications – There are several medications that can be used to treat osteoporosis.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are concerned about your risk of osteoporosis during menopause.

They can help you develop a personalized plan to manage your bone health and reduce your risk of fractures.

Why does menopause cause depression?

Menopause is a time of significant hormonal and physiological changes that can impact mood and mental health. Many women experience symptoms of depression during menopause, and there are several reasons why this may occur:

  • Hormonal changes – The decline in oestrogen levels during menopause can affect the levels of other hormones that regulate mood, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This can lead to changes in mood, including symptoms of depression.
  • Sleep disturbances – Menopause can also disrupt sleep, which can contribute to symptoms of depression. Poor sleep quality and quantity have been linked to an increased risk of depression.
  • Hot flushes and night sweats – Hot flushes and night sweats can be distressing symptoms of menopause that can disrupt daily activities and contribute to mood changes.
  • Stress – Menopause can also be a stressful time, particularly for women who are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities. Chronic stress can contribute to the development of depression.
  • Body image concerns – Some women may experience changes in their body shape or weight during menopause, which can lead to body image concerns and contribute to symptoms of depression.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression during menopause, it’s important to seek support from a healthcare provider. There are a variety of treatments that can be helpful, including hormone therapy, antidepressant medications, and psychotherapy. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, and social support can also be helpful in managing symptoms of depression during menopause.

When does menopause end?

Menopause itself is a one-time event that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.

It is defined as the point at which a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

However, the symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes, may start during perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) and continue for several years after menopause.

This period of time is called postmenopause, and it can last for an average of 4-5 years but may continue for up to 10 years or more.

How long does menopause last?

The duration of menopause symptoms varies widely among women.

On average, women experience symptoms for around 4-5 years, but some women may experience symptoms for only a few months, while others may have symptoms for 10 years or more.

The severity of symptoms can also vary widely, with some women experiencing only mild symptoms while others have more severe symptoms that interfere with their daily lives.