Considering almost half the population will go through the menopause at some point, there are still plenty of unanswered questions around the hormonal changes that result in the end of a woman's menstrual cycle.
That means many of us end up turning to Google for answers to common menopause questions – and the results aren't always based on the latest medical information.
That's where our expert series on all things menopause comes in. We've already covered off the average age British women go through the menopause, according to a gynaecologist; got the expert lowdown on all things sex and menopause and consulted two top dieticians to find out why some women put on weight during menopause. But what about one of the other most Googled questions, 'how long does menopause last?'
We asked Dr Cat Hyatt, a GP based in Dorset, to explain the facts.
HOW LONG DOES MENOPAUSE LAST?
'Essentially, menopause lasts much longer than people expect!', she says. 'The average time frame a person can experience "menopausal symptoms" is around 7 years, but there is a whole spectrum. Some women might not experience menopausal symptoms at all, while others experience such significant symptoms that it can really impact their day-to-day life and can go on much longer than 7 years.'
WHY DOES MENOPAUSE LENGTH DIFFER FOR SOME WOMEN?
'The problem many women experience with menopause and peri menopause (which basically is the time before menopause when the amount of oestrogen made by the ovaries begins to go down) is that there are loads of different symptoms which women don’t necessarily relate to menopause,' Dr Hyatt explains.
'There are all the typical features you hear about including hot sweats, loss of libido and change to periods, but also other more nebulous symptoms. These include insomnia (either as a result of the hot sweats or because of the changing hormone levels in your body, particularly progesterone), and memory lapses – among others – which can significantly affect a women’s day to day life.
'I’d really recommend looking at a website called Rock My Menopause which I share with all my patients. It is a campaign set up by the Primary Care Women’s Health forum based on disseminating evidence based, no nonsense information about the menopause with lots of myth busting. There is a great leaflet on if HRT is dangerous for example.'
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