Menopause symptoms: what is the menopause and its signs, does it start at a certain age - and HRT explained

Davina McCall has sparked fresh conversation about the menopause after she denied a claim in a newspaper article that she was ‘monetising’ the women’s health issue

Davina McCall is one of the most outspoken celebrities when it comes to menopause.

The 53-year-old - who recently released a highly-praised Channel 4 documentary about the women’s health issue - has denied a claim that she is “monetising the menopause” by trademarking the word “menopausing” to protect the title of her new book on the subject.

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In a video statement, Ms McCall insisted she would “never try and make money out of women when they’re at their most vulnerable” in response to an article published by The Mail on Sunday which claimed that she was “turning her menopause into a money-spinning brand”.

A common symptom of the menopause is hot flushes (Shutterstock)

The video, posted to Ms McCall’s Instagram page, has sparked fresh conversation about the menopause and how it affects the lives of those who go through it.

So, what are the symptoms of menopause?

Here’s everything you need to know.

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Davina McCall is vocal about the menopause and how it affects women (Getty Images)

What is menopause?

The menopause is when women and non-binary people who menstruate no longer have periods and are unable to become pregnant naturally.

Usually, periods start to become less frequent over a varying timeframe - which could be a few months or even years - before they eventually stop altogether.

However, in some instances periods can stop suddenly.

“The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51,” the NHS website states.

Around one in 100 women go through menopause before they turn 40, which is known as premature menopause or early menopause.

What are the common symptoms of menopause?

Most women and non-binary people who menstruate will go through menopausal symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.

Symptoms can start months or even years before your last period - known as perimenopause - and go on for around four years after your period stops.

However, every person’s experience with menopause is different, and some people will experience symptoms for much longer than that.

According to the NHS, common symptoms include:

- hot flushes

- night sweats

- vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex

- difficulty sleeping

- low mood or anxiety

- reduced sex drive (libido)

- problems with memory and concentration.

These symptoms are a result of a natural decline in production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

What are the signs of early menopause?

Some people will experience an early menopause.

This is when periods stop before the age of 45, whether that be a natural occurrence or due to side effects from some medical treatments, according to the NHS.

Early menopause can happen if the ovaries stop making normal levels of hormones, especially oestrogen.

Also known as premature ovarian failure, the cause of this is often unknown, but the NHS says it may be down to:

- chromosome abnormalities

- an autoimmune disease

- certain infections, such as tuberculosis, malaria and mumps (but this is rare).

Premature ovarian failure may also run in families - for example, if any of your relatives went through the menopause in their 20s or early 30s.

Meanwhile, cancer treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy can also cause premature ovarian failure on a permanent or temporary basis.

The main symptom of early menopause is periods becoming infrequent or stopping altogether without another reason such as pregnancy, according to the NHS.

Some people may also experience other typical menopausal symptoms, as stated above.

A GP will be able to make a diagnosis of early menopause by looking at your symptoms, family history and your hormone levels.

What is HRT?

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one of the most common treatments for menopausal symptoms.

You may be offered HRT if you are experiencing severe symptoms that affect your daily life as it can help to relieve hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.

It can come in the form of tablets, skin patches, gels and implants and works by replacing hormones that are at a lower level.

Taking HRT during perimenopause or the menopause can be hugely beneficial for many people, and these benefits are thought to outweigh the risks.

For example, some types of HRT can increase your risk of breast cancer, the NHS says.

You can read more about the risks of HRT on the NHS website, and speak to your GP if you are interested in starting it.