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At what age do periods stop UK?

The age at which a woman’s periods stop in the UK is called the menopause. Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years old, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years.

When Does Menopause Usually Occur?

In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51 years old. However, menopause can occur at different ages, ranging anywhere from early 40s to late 50s. Here is an overview of when menopause commonly occurs:

  • Early menopause – Before age 45
  • Average age – Between 45-55 years old
  • Late menopause – After age 55

While 51 is the average, every woman’s experience is different. The timing of menopause is believed to be largely genetic, meaning it tends to occur around the same age for women within the same family. Lifestyle factors like smoking may cause menopause to occur slightly earlier.

Stages Leading up to Menopause

Menopause does not happen all at once. It is a gradual biological process that typically takes place over 4-5 years. This transition time is known medically as perimenopause. Perimenopause involves three main stages:

  • Early perimenopause – Periods become irregular. This stage typically begins in the mid-40s but can start as early as the late 30s.
  • Mid-perimenopause – Estrogen levels continue declining and ovulation becomes infrequent. This causes symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep problems.
  • Late perimenopause – Menstruation ends completely. At this point, a woman has gone 12 months without a period and has reached menopause.

Perimenopause lasts up until a woman has gone 12 straight months without a menstrual cycle. Once she reaches this milestone, she has officially entered menopause.

When Periods Completely Stop

During perimenopause, cycles become increasingly irregular. A woman may go several months with a normal period followed by several months of missed periods. This unpredictability is caused by hormonal fluctuations. Eventually, menstruation stops completely once perimenopause has ended.

On average, most women in the UK reach this milestone of having their final menstrual period somewhere around age 51. However, thisvaries significantly:

  • 5% of women reach menopause before age 45
  • 20% of women reach menopause between ages 45-49
  • 45% of women reach menopause between ages 50-54
  • 30% of women reach menopause between ages 55-59

As you can see from the numbers, menopause can happen earlier or later than the average age. The onset of menopause is considered “early” if it occurs before 45. Reaching menopause after age 55 is considered “late menopause.”

Changes That Lead Up To Menopause

What causes periods to eventually stop in the years before menopause? Hormonal changes are the main driver. Here’s an overview of what’s happening internally:

  • Ovarian follicle count drops – Women are born with a finite number of eggs/ovarian follicles. This decline accelerates near menopause.
  • Less estrogen and progesterone – With fewer follicles, the ovaries produce lower levels of these key hormones.
  • Increased FSH levels – The pituitary gland releases more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in an attempt to induce ovulation.
  • No follicular development – Despite high FSH, the ovaries do not produce mature follicles, so ovulation ceases.
  • Menstruation stops – Without mature eggs and ovulating, the menstrual cycle ends.

It’s the interplay between declining ovarian follicles, hormones, and the pituitary gland that causes periods to eventually completely stop by the time menopause arrives.

Common Signs of Approaching Menopause

Most women begin experiencing both physical and emotional symptoms as they approach menopause and their hormone levels change. Here are some of the most common signs:

  • Irregular periods – Cycles become harder to predict, with inconsistencies in flow, length, and timing.
  • Hot flashes – Sudden sensation of intense warmth in the face/upper body that can cause sweating and flushing.
  • Night sweats – Episodes of severe sweating at nighttime that can interfere with sleep.
  • Vaginal dryness – Declining estrogen leads to thinner, drier vaginal tissues.
  • Mood changes – Anxiety, irritability, and depression may increase due to hormone fluctuations.
  • Difficulty concentrating – Many women report memory lapses and trouble focusing.
  • Skin/hair changes – Collagen loss can make skin drier and more prone to wrinkles. Hair may thin.
  • Changing cholesterol – Declining estrogen is associated with higher LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.

Keep in mind that not all women experience severe symptoms. Some may sail through perimenopause without much difficulty. Monitoring symptoms and staying on top of health screenings can help minimize disruptions during this transitional time.

Premature Ovarian Failure

In rare cases, periods can stop much earlier than normal due to a condition called premature ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency. This affects approximately 1% of women under age 40.

The criteria for premature ovarian failure include:

  • Periods stop before age 40
  • Menopausal FSH levels
  • Estrogen deficiency symptoms

With this condition, the ovaries lose function due to autoimmunity, genetics, or unknown factors. Women with premature ovarian failure require hormone therapy until the typical age of menopause (around age 50) to protect bone health and reduce risk of early cardiovascular disease.

Surgical Menopause

Some women experience induced menopause following surgery to remove either the uterus or both ovaries. Common reasons this may be performed include:

  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine or ovarian cancer
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

Surgical removal of both ovaries causes immediate menopause, regardless of the woman’s age. Having a hysterectomy (removing just the uterus) typically induces menopause if done after age 45.

Women who undergo surgical menopause before age 45 are at higher risk for health issues like osteoporosis and heart disease if hormone therapy is not used to treat estrogen deficiency until the natural age of menopause.

Medical Treatments That Can Cause Early Menopause

There are some medical and chemotherapy treatments that damage the ovaries, leading to premature menopause:

  • Radiation to the pelvic region
  • Chemotherapy using agents like cyclophosphamide
  • Stem cell transplants

The onset of menopause depends on the woman’s age, type of treatment, and dosage of the medications or radiation used. Younger women are more likely to experience ovarian failure and early menopause from these cancer and transplantation therapies.

Factors That Delay Menopause

While genetics largely determines when menopause occurs, certain factors are associated with reaching menopause at an older age:

  • Being overweight – having higher BMI
  • Being a nonsmoker
  • Having given birth to children
  • Being of Japanese or Hispanic ethnicity

The mechanisms behind how these factors influence menopausal timing are not fully understood. But researchers have consistently observed these correlations between demographics/lifestyle habits and later onset menopause.

Conclusion

In summary, menopause normally occurs between the ages of 45-55 for women in the UK, with the average age being 51. Periods become irregular and eventually stop completely when a woman reaches 12 months of amenorrhea, marking the end of her reproductive years. While menopause timing is largely genetic, factors like smoking, surgery, or cancer treatment can sometimes cause periods to cease earlier than normal. Understanding the bodily changes involved and managing symptoms are key to navigating this major transition gracefully.