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Ask Jean Hailes about menopause

Ask Jean Hailes

We love busting myths, getting awkward and simplifying the complicated. In our new series, we answer the health questions on your mind, starting with the topic of menopause.

I’m 46 and my periods are changing. Does this mean I’m nearing menopause?

The lead-up to menopause (your final period) is called perimenopause and it affects every woman differently. Usually, it starts in your 40s and lasts four to six years on average.

There is no test for perimenopause but if you're experiencing irregular periods and other menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats, you might be going through it. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried or if your symptoms are bothering you.

I’ve got brain fog and sore muscles but no hot flushes. Are my symptoms linked to menopause?

Menopause is so much more than hot flushes. The hormonal changes can have an ongoing effect on many body parts including your heart, bones, brain, body fat, bladder, vagina and vulva. Symptoms vary from woman to woman, and they don’t always include the classic hot flushes.

Brain fog and sore muscles can certainly be linked to menopause, but they can also have other causes. Check in with your doctor who can help you find out more.

Is hormone therapy safe?

Decades ago, a research paper led many women to stop menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) over fears it caused breast cancer. We’ve come a long way since then but unfortunately, this fear remains. Today, we know that for most healthy women around the time of menopause, the benefits of MHT far outweigh the small risks.

MHT is not suitable for everyone, including those with a history of untreated high blood pressure or hormone-sensitive cancers. However, it is the most effective treatment for alleviating menopausal symptoms. This is why your GP will weigh up the benefits and risks for you as an individual before prescribing it.

I’m dreading menopause, but I know it’s coming. How worried should I be?

It can be helpful to think of menopause as a bit like puberty: a transition in life that women go through. There can be downsides but also upsides (goodbye pesky periods!).

About 20% of women will breeze through menopause without any symptoms, 60% will experience mild to moderate symptoms, and the remaining 20% will have severe symptoms. So remember, menopause can be tricky for some but certainly not all women. And effective treatments are available if symptoms are affecting your quality of life.

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Last updated: 
21 December 2023
 | 
Last reviewed: 
24 May 2024