Every woman

will go through the menopause, but each experience of it is different

MENOPAUSE

What is the menopause?

WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE? 

The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The menopause is a natural part of ageing that generally occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. A number of studies have looked at whether women living with HIV experience menopause earlier than those not living with HIV. The results are conflicting, as some studies reported that women living with HIV did experience menopause earlier, whilst other studies reported no differences. This suggests that more research is needed in this area.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE?

Menopause has different symptoms in different women, these include:

  • Changes in periods
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Low mood
  • Irritability
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tired

Symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around four years after your last period, although some women experience them for much longer. 

Does the menopause differ for women living with HIV?

DOES THE MENOPAUSE DIFFER FOR WOMEN LIVING WITH HIV? 

There isn’t much research available in this area and the studies that are available are conflicting. Some studies show that women living with HIV experience menopause earlier, with more symptoms than other women, whilst other studies do not. Some studies also suggest that women living with HIV may face challenges in recognising and managing menopause symptoms, not knowing if symptoms are related to HIV or the menopause.

It has also been found that the risk of developing osteoporosis (thinning bones) is increased for people living with HIV and in women after the menopause. If you have any concerns, speak to your healthcare team.

How is the menopause managed?

HOW IS THE MENOPAUSE MANAGED?

Treatments to lessen symptoms during the menopausal transition are the same for women with HIV as for other women. Talk to your healthcare team if you have any questions on menopausal treatment.

Life style changes to help manage symptoms

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly can improve some menopausal symptoms
  • Natural supplements and herbal treatments may also help, but these may interact with your HIV medication so do discuss them with your healthcare team first

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other treatment

If you have severe menopausal symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life, your healthcare team may suggest treatments including:

  • Hormone replacement therapy – tablets, skin patches, gels and implants that relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing oestrogen
  • Vaginal oestrogen creams, lubricants or moisturisers for vaginal dryness
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and anxiety

If your menopausal symptoms are troubling you, have a chat about the risks and benefits of HRT with your healthcare team to help you decide if it is right for you.

Osteoporosis after the menopause

OSTEOPOROSIS AFTER THE MENOPAUSE

Your bones get weaker as you age and this happens to everybody, but the change is usually faster in women after the menopause. Because oestrogen is important for healthy bone growth, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help to protect your bones from osteoporosis whilst you’re on treatment. Visit the bone health page for more information.

4

Tips

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR

  1. What do I need to know about menopause as a woman living with HIV?
  2. What can I do to relieve menopausal symptoms?
  3. How will the menopause affect my bones?
  4. What are the risks and benefits of HRT?