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Menopause - a life stage

Three mature women after exerciseMenopause is a natural stage in life and part of the ageing process. It marks the time when a woman’s periods stop as her ovaries run out of eggs or stop producing eggs.

Our information hub about the menopause and health in later life aims to help you manage your way through this life stage, ensuring this natural process is as positive as possible. We also aim to support you to take prompt action if there are any signs of illness, helping you feel better informed when discussing any topics with a healthcare professional.

What is the menopause and when does it occur?

The menopause usually occurs in a woman’s early 50s, but can happen earlier (see section below on premature menopause) or later. Although the symptoms may go on for a number of years, menopause is said to have taken place when a woman has not had a period for 12 months.

What are the symptoms?

Each woman is different and will respond to the menopause in her own way - both physically and emotionally - to the changes that menopause brings.

Before the full onset of menopause there is a stage known as perimenopause. This can last for 4 to 5 years or longer. Not all women have symptoms at this stage, but some women may experience some of the following:

  • Change in menstrual cycle
  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Weight gain

Where can I find out more?

The different sections of our information hub link out to information about managing some of these symptoms, as well as other health concerns important to women at this stage of life and through to older age.

General information about the menopause, including how to live well, is available at:

Premature menopause

Menopause can occur earlier than expected for some women. If it happens before the age of 40, it is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). In some women this can occur as a result of some form of surgical or medical treatment, and sometimes it can run in families. 

It can be very difficult for women to come to terms with a diagnosis of premature menopause, especially if they haven't yet had a family and were hoping to do so in the future. Treatment in the form of HRT or combined hormonal pill to replace the ovarian hormones is recommended in these young women, both to help with any menopausal symptoms and to reduce the long-term risks such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Information and support about premature menopause is available from the Daisy Network.

Elsewhere on the site

Medical terms explained
A–Z of common medical words in women’s health
About the RCOG
Find out about our work to improve women’s health worldwide