Perimenopause and menopause symptoms
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The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide basic information about experiences of perimenopause and menopause.
Menopause affects around half of Australia’s population at some point in their lives and those undergoing menopause will likely do so while they go about their regular working lives.
To create the best working environment possible for workers going through menopause, it’s important to understand what it means to experience menopause.
This information is for general knowledge, not medical use. For personal medical advice, contact your GP.
For information on how to manage perimenopause and menopause in a workplace setting, check out the menopause in the workplace fact sheet.
Resources in languages other than English can be found at the bottom of this page.
Perimenopause is when you start to have menopause symptoms with hormonal fluctuations and changes to periods. This phase is, on average, around four to five years and is also sometimes known as ‘menopause transition’.
How someone experiences perimenopause will be different for each individual, but symptoms can include:
- Less frequent periods
- Short menstrual cycles
- Periods become heavier or lighter
For some people, symptoms are worse during perimenopause than they are during menopause.
The duration of symptoms fluctuates widely too. For some, perimenopause lasts only a few months but for others, it can last for many years.
Menopause is when there has been 12 months without a period and when the ovaries are no longer responsive.
Those with ovaries will be born with a finite number of ‘eggs’. As you age, the number of eggs dwindles with each menstrual cycle until depleted.
A developing egg normally produces oestrogen so when the eggs fall in number, so does the amount of oestrogen your body naturally produces. The falling oestrogen levels causes symptoms that first appear as perimenopause and then menopause.
Physical menopause symptoms
Symptoms will vary from person to person but can include:
- Daytime sweats, hot flushes, palpitations
- Night-time sweats and hot flushes, insomnia or sleep disturbance
- Urinary problems e.g. increased frequency and urgency
- Irregular and/or heavy periods
- Skin irritation, dryness or itching
- Muscular aches, bone and joint pains
- Dry eyes
Psychological menopause symptoms
- Depression, anxiety, and/or panic attacks
- Mood changes and loss of confidence due to stress
- Memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
Intersecting characteristics and menopause
Experiences of menopause vary on an individual level and other characteristics also play a role. For example, the average age for when someone reaches menopause in Australia is 51 years but this varies with ethnicity e.g. Asian people are more likely to experience menopause at an earlier age.
It’s important to note that research on intervening factors such as race, gender and sex is extremely limited. The resources below are a start but there are huge gaps of knowledge that need to be filled.
You can check out these resources for more information:
- Trans and non-binary considerations – Menopause Alliance Australia
- What is the non-binary experience of menopause? – Queer Menopause Collective
- Exploring Australian Aboriginal women’s experiences of menopause – BMC Women’s Health
Non-English language menopause resources
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health have fact sheets on menopause in the following languages:
- Arabic fact sheet
- Mandarin (simplified) fact sheet
- Dari fact sheet
- Farsi fact sheet
- Greek fact sheet
- Hindi fact sheet
- Italian fact sheet
- Portuguese fact sheet
- Vietnamese fact sheet
Cover photo credit: RODNAE Productions
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