This is the third part of our series about the menopause based on our booklet “Fast Facts for Patients: Menopause”, which is freely available online. This article shows how the menopause transition will affect you.
The menopause transition affects different women in different ways. There are lots of possible symptoms – you may not have any of them or you may have some or all of them, some or all of the time. Use the following table to keep a track of your symptoms. The most common symptoms are listed at the top of the table.
These are largely considered to be short-term symptoms – although some women continue to experience some of these symptoms for many years.
Note that poor sleep in a previously good sleeper is a common but subtle early sign of the menopause transition.
A national survey conducted on behalf of the British Menopause Society (BMS) found that one-half of women go through the menopause without consulting a healthcare professional – even though 42% said that symptoms were worse than expected. Half the women said that the menopause had affected their home life, and one-third said it had affected their work life.
Q: How do I know if I have started the menopause transition?
If you are aged 40–50, have any of the symptoms listed in the table and your periods are irregular, you are likely to be in the menopause transition.
Q: Do I need a blood test?
Most women do not need a blood test. However, if you are younger than 40 and have perimenopausal symptoms, your doctor will recommend that you have two blood tests 6 weeks apart to measure the levels of FSH. High levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) may indicate premature ovarian insufficiency, which should be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Q: I’ve had a hysterectomy. How will the menopause affect me?
Perimenopausal symptoms are caused by changes in the hormones released from the ovaries. If you have had a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) but still have your ovaries, you may get perimenopausal symptoms (except heavy bleeding). However, the symptoms may start earlier than in women who still have a womb.
Women who start taking HRT after a hysterectomy and possibly after an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) can continue taking it to age 60 (and beyond if needed) to control menopausal symptoms.
Q: I take the combined contraceptive pill. How will the menopause affect me?
Every woman will reach the menopause. However, if you are taking a combined hormonal contraceptive, the perimenopausal symptoms may be masked and you may not know exactly when you reach the menopause.
For women under 50, combined hormonal contraception (pills, patches and vaginal rings) can help control perimenopausal symptoms (including heavy periods).
You can take combined oral contraception (“the pill”) until age 50. You will then need to change to a progestogen-only contraceptive method until age 55.
The Mirena intrauterine system (IUS) can be combined with oestrogen-only HRT to help with perimenopausal symptoms in addition to providing contraception.
Q: I don’t have periods because I have a progestogen-based IUS. How will the menopause affect me?
Perimenopausal symptoms are caused by changes in the levels of hormones released from the ovaries, so although you have an IUS you may still have perimenopausal symptoms (except heavy bleeding).
The Mirena IUS can be used as part of HRT to protect the lining of the womb (it provides the progestogen component). It is usually replaced every 5 years.
Please check out the previous and the next post of our series here:
Information based on Fast Facts for Patients: Menopause (Karger, 2021).