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The menopause is a natural stage in life when a woman’s periods stop, and she is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

It happens when there is a change in the sex hormones as a woman gets older. The ovaries stop producing the hormone oestrogen and no longer produce an egg each month.

The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45-55; the average age for women in the UK to reach menopause is 51.[1] The process is usually gradual and occurs over several years. Menopause can also be triggered by some treatments for cancer, and in some exceptional cases, younger women may become menopausal (known as premature menopause).

Most women will experience menopausal symptoms that are caused by the change in the balance of hormones. These symptoms can have a significant impact on daily life and well-being and experiences vary widely between women. Common menopausal 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.[2]

The fall in hormone levels that accompanies the menopause can increase the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.[3]

The following sources provide more information on the menopause:

World Menopause Day

The International Menopause Society has designated October 18 as World Menopause Day to “raise awareness of midlife women’s health”.[4]

The International Menopause Society have chosen sexual well-being as the focus for World Menopause Day 2018. The Society explains that during menopause women can experience sexual problems which can impair their quality of life:

  • Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality. After menopause it is not uncommon for women to experience sexual problems which can severely impair their relationships, mental health, social functioning and overall quality of life. This campaign aims to show that it is treatable.
  • […]
  • Sexual well-being frequently declines following the menopause transition and can be associated with significant personal and relationship distress. This distress is the hallmark of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). The International Menopause Society is working to increase awareness of FSD and to provide a framework for practitioners to address sexual medicine concerns.[5]

The Society’s factsheet on sexual well-being after menopause provides more information about sexual problems experienced by women after menopause. The Society argues that the topic of sexuality should be approached in a clinical setting and that there is a lack of information, comfort with and biases about the topic of sexuality after menopause.[6]

This debate briefing includes parliamentary material, press notices, news articles and useful further reading on World Menopause day.

[1] NHS, Menopause, accessed 16 October 2018.

[2] NHS, Menopause, accessed 16 October 2018.

[3] Women’s Health Concern, The menopause factsheet, December 2015. Women’s Health Concern is the patient arm of the British Menopause Society.

[4]  International Menopause Society, World Menopause Day, accessed 16 October 2018.

[5] International Menopause Society, World Menopause Day, accessed 16 October 2018.

[6] IJ. A. Simon, S. R. Davis, S. E. Althof, P. Chedraui, A. H. Clayton, S. A. Kingsberg, R. E. Nappi, S. J. Parish & W. Wolfman (2018): Sexual well-being after menopause: An International Menopause Society White Paper, Climacteric, DOI: 10.1080/13697137.2018.1482647 

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