There are 3 recognised phases.


This is the time that the body is preparing for the menopause. This can start happening around our 40’s or even earlier in some women. It’s the time before the menopause when the cycle length and menstrual flow begin to change and becomes irregular. Periods can be shorter or longer, and are often heavier or lighter than usual. These changes are caused by the changes in hormone levels

Peri-menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before our periods stop, and last around a few years after the last period, although some women experience them for much longer.

These changes in cycle often cause uncertainty concern for women, and we can find it embarrassing and difficult to talk about even with close friends or family. The best advice is to have a chat with the Doctor or Pharmacist who will be able to offer clear, factual help and guidance on how best to manage life through the menopause, and to signpost women to support groups that can help.

The menopause

Menopause literally means the last monthly period of a woman's life. However, it is confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

For most women, menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 years and in the UK the average age is 51 years.

Oestrogen levels play an important role in a woman's life. They rise at puberty with the onset of childbearing years, and then increase and decrease rhythmically with the menstrual cycle. They peak during pregnancy and then decline as we reach menopause and the menstrual cycle ceases.

Post menopause

This is the period after the menopause when periods have been absent for 12 months consecutive months. At this stage, the worst of the symptoms have probably reduced, although some symptoms such as hot flushes can carry on for many years after the menopause.

For post-menopausal women, other aspects of health need to be considered, such as bone and heart health, as our bodies lose the protective effects of oestrogen. So during this period it’s important to make sure we are getting the right nutrients to keep bones strong and reduce cholesterol levels.

Premature menopause?

Premature menopause is also known as premature ovarian insufficiency, and is define by the onset of the menopause before the age of 40. This affects an estimated 1 in 100 women. The GP can offer advice, usually confirming whether or not symptoms are due to the menopause. A simple blood test to measure hormone levels may be carried out to help diagnose premature menopause.