Signs and symptoms of menopause

Most women will experience symptoms of menopause and many women will experience early symptoms while still having periods.

Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and can last for years after.

If you go through the menopause because of surgical or medical treatments, you are likely to experience the symptoms of menopause much less gradually.

What to expect

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 one every two or three weeks, or you may not have one for months at a time. Eventually, you'll stop having periods altogether.

All women will experience the menopause differently, but there are some common symptoms that are helpful to look out for. Some you will be aware of, but some that might be unexpected.

It can be really helpful to know the common symptoms of the menopause and how these might affect you. Many women feel unaware of and unprepared for the range, severity and impact of the symptoms.

Common symptoms of menopause

Common symptoms of the menopause include:

  • anxiety
  • changes in mood - such as low mood or irritability
  • changes in skin conditions, including dryness or increase in oiliness and onset of adult acne
  • difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day
  • discomfort during sex
  • feelings of loss of self
  • hair loss or thinning
  • headaches or migraines
  • hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty
  • increase in facial hair
  • joint stiffness, aches and pains
  • loss of self-confidence
  • night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night
  • palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
  • problems with memory, concentration and 'brain fog'
  • recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as cystitis
  • reduced sex drive (libido)
  • tinnitus
  • vaginal dryness and pain

Menopause can also increase your risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis) or cardiac disease.

You can speak to someone at your GP practice about your symptoms and ask if they’re related to menopause. You can also say if you would prefer to see a female rather than a male health professional.

Further information about postmenopausal health

Support managing your symptoms

Some symptoms of menopause can be hard to live with. To be able to manage your symptoms, you need understanding from those around you. Menopause Cafes can provide a helpful place to talk to other people about menopause.

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP if:

  • you have menopausal symptoms that are troubling you
  • you're experiencing symptoms of the menopause before 45 years of age.

Your GP can usually confirm whether you are menopausal based on your symptoms, but a blood test to measure your hormone levels may be carried out if you're aged 40 to 45.

Blood tests may also be carried out to help diagnose suspected premature menopause if you’re under 40 and have menopausal symptoms.

Menopause and mental health

Many women experience symptoms of anxiety, loss of confidence, ‘brain fog’ and other symptoms relating to their mental health during menopause.

These psychological symptoms are a result of the changes happening to your body and can have a big impact on your life.

Sometimes these symptoms are not recognised as menopause symptoms, but if you know what to expect, it can help you decide on what to do to manage the symptoms and feelings you are experiencing.

Further information about menopause and your mental wellbeing