Around 13 million people in the UK are currently perimenopausal or menopausal, but how much do we know about this natural physiological change that affects all women, and can stretch decades of a person’s life? 

Dr. Heather Currie, an associate specialist gynaecologist, specialising in menopause, and a Trustee and former Chair of the British Menopause Society, answers some common questions to help plug the gaps in our understanding of the menopause.

Dr Heather Currie
Gynaecologist Dr Heather Currie

What’s the standard age for women to reach menopause?

A standard age for women to reach menopause is between 55 and 60. The menopause is the final period, but there is a transition phase that can happen for a few years before that. The average age of the final period is 51, the range being 45 to 55. 

For a number of years, there’s a stage where the ovaries are working differently; changing hormone levels, changing period patterns. That can start in our forties.

What are typical menopause symptoms?

The menopause can cause hot flushes for many women. All the symptoms and consequences are related to low oestrogen, which can affect women in many different ways — mood changes, low mood, anxiety, sleep disturbance, headaches, palpitations, joint aches, to name just a few.

Exercise can be a natural way to relieve menopause symptoms.
Exercise can be a natural way to relieve menopause symptoms.

They all help to regulate the changes women are going through as they age. 

Should you go on HRT when you reach the menopause?

Not all women require HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Many women have minimal symptoms or can manage them through diet and lifestyle changes, or taking plenty of exercise, for example. Some women aren’t able to take HRT because of medical conditions.

Approved by the British Menopause Society

How long can you be on HRT?

HRT isn’t needed forever. Women can take it for as long as they want to; for as long as they feel the benefits outweigh the risks. We don’t believe that HRT causes the breast cells to turn into cancer, but we believe that it can promote breast cancer cells that are already present which can lead to a diagnosis.

Will I miss out in some way if I don’t take HRT? 

Some women have missed out, and put up with troublesome symptoms for years because of being frightened of taking HRT, or they may have been advised not to take HRT. So, if symptoms are still present, it can be considered at a later stage, but we have to be really careful about the type, the dose, and the route.

Can HRT reduce the risk of osteoporosis?  

HRT at any age can be helpful for bones, even with a very small dose. But if osteoporosis is confirmed at a later age, then there are other very effective treatments that would be recommended rather than HRT at that stage, because starting HRT later is not without difficulties and related to dementia. We believe that starting at a later stage can slightly increase the risk of dementia rather than reduce it.

Learn more about ITN Business’ programme, Menopause: Misinformation & Management, which looks to shine a light on the misinformation surrounding menopause, while providing menopause management advice to women of all ages.

The full programme is available to watch here.

About the BMS

The British Menopause Society (BMS) has many educational events and resources available online, and is working hard to implement its vision for menopause care in the UK — focusing on patient experience, a well-educated Health Care Professionals (HCP) workforce, and integrated care.

Other great resources

  • Menopause Matters — an award winning, independent website providing up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options.
  • The Menopause Charity — a site that aims to deliver trusted information and support for those experiencing or treating menopausal symptoms.
  • QueerMenopause — for those who identify as LGBT+.
  • The Daisy Network — for those going through premature menopause.