What is the menopause?

The menopause is a medical term used to describe the transition years when the ovaries spontaneously fail to produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

Periods become less frequent and then stop altogether. The menopause is said to have occurred when periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months. The menopause is a normal life occurence affecting all women and some trans and non-binary people (HSWPG Menopause at Work, 2020).

Although it normally occurs between the ages of 45-55, with the average age being 51, the menopause can occur at any time up to around the age of 65. A significant number of individuals experience the menopause before the age of 40 (some even in their teens or twenties). This is known as premature menopause, or primary ovarian insufficiency, and estimates suggest that around 1 in every 100 women in the UK will experience this (NCHC Guidance on Menopause and the Workplace). Premature menopause may be as a result of medical or surgical intervention or it can just happen on its own with no clear cause.

• 80% of women in the UK report noticeable changes – though the type, amount and severity of those symptoms can vary, ranging from mild to severe.

• 45% of women find their symptoms difficult to deal with.

• Approximately 25% of women experience very debilitating symptoms.

• Many women describe that the symptoms of the menopause negatively affect them at work.

NHS Wales Menopause Policy, 2019