Most women will experience some symptoms around the menopause. The duration and severity of these symptoms varies from woman to woman.
Symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop, known as the perimenopause, and can persist for some time afterwards.
On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.
If you experience the menopause suddenly rather than gradually – for example, as a result of cancer treatment – your symptoms may be worse.
The first sign of the menopause is usually a change in the normal pattern of your periods.
You may start having either unusually light or heavy periods.
The frequency of your periods may also be affected. You may have them every 2 or 3 weeks, or you may not have them for months at a time.
Eventually, you'll stop having periods altogether.
About 8 in every 10 women will have additional symptoms for some time before and after their periods stop.
These can have a significant impact on daily life for some women.
Common symptoms include:
- hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty
- night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night
- difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day
- a reduced sex drive (libido)
- problems with memory and concentration
- vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
- mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
- palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
- joint stiffness, aches and pains
- reduced muscle mass
- recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
The menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis).
See your GP if you're finding your symptoms particularly troublesome, as treatments are available.