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What is the menopause?

The menopause means your periods have stopped and is  a retrospective diagnosis when you have not had a period for one year (as long as you are not on medication that could affect your periods). The average age for the last period in the UK is 51 but any time from 45 to 55 is considered normal.  You are then described as postmenopausal.


The period of time when you develop menopausal symptoms but are still having periods although they may be more frequent, irregular, lighter, or heavier.  This phase can last up to 10 years and finishes 1 year after your last period.

Postmenopausal bleeding

A vaginal bleed when your last proper period was at least one year ago and you have not started HRT.  THIS NEEDS URGENT ASSESSMENT BY YOUR GP.

Surgical menopause

Your ovaries are removed during a surgical operation (bilateral oophorectomy).

Medical menopause

Can be caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and some other drugs.

Early menopause

The menopause occurs before the age of 45.

Premature ovarian insufficiency

The menopause occurs before the age of 40 (about 1 in 100 women).

If you have been diagnosed with an early or premature menopause it is very important that you take HRT until at least your early 50s, unless there is a specific contraindication.  Many women in this age group have been put off HRT by media scares, but they do need to replace the natural hormones they have lost to protect their heart and bones for the future.

Date published: 22nd March, 2022
Date last updated: 18th January, 2024