What is the menopause and how is it diagnosed?

Menopause is defined as the time when there have been no menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months and no other biological or physiological cause can be identified. Women usually experience the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being 51 years.

Individuals experience the menopause differently. Some experience only one or two symptoms which are mild, while others will have more severe and distressing symptoms. The most common symptoms experienced by women are hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, low mood and/or feeling anxious and joint and muscle pain.

Everyone will experience the Menopause in different ways. Women can experience single or a combination of symptoms. 8 out of 10 women who are menopausal are in the workforce, 3 out of 4 will experience symptoms, whilst 1 in 4 will suffer serious symptoms that have a significant impact on their daily life.

There are over 25 symptoms linked to Menopause. When symptoms start and the patient is aged over 45 years, they will not usually need a test to confirm that they are menopausal. The GP will advise according to the symptoms being experienced. In women under the age of 45, the GP will usually carry out blood tests that are repeated after 4-6 weeks to see if the symptoms are related to 'premature menopause'.

What are the treatment options for the menopause?

There are many different treatment options to help with the symptoms experienced during the menopause, but the condition itself is a natural occurrence for which there is no definitive treatment pathway. It can be trial and error with regards to treatments that might help the individual.

Prescribed treatments

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

HRT is the most common form of prescribed treatment for menopausal symptoms. It helps to replace the hormone oestrogen in the body, which decreases around the menopause. Some women may also need other hormones (such as progestogen and testosterone) as the body will no longer be producing it.

The type of HRT recommended depends on the individual's symptoms, and is available as oral tablets, skin patches, injections, body gel or spray, or vaginal ring, cream or pessary.

Non-prescribed treatments

Herbal medicines

Plants or plant extracts, such as St John's wort, black cohosh and isoflavones (soya products). These are all readily available over the counter.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, acupressure or homeopathy may help some women.

Non-hormonal medical treatment

Medication that is not hormone related can be prescribed by a GP to aid with symptoms being experienced. An example of this is Gabapentin which can be used to treat hot flushes.

Mental Health / Psychological treatments

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that can help with low mood and anxiety related to the menopause. Other treatments such as counselling and psychotherapy may help too.

Lifestyle changes

  • Regular aerobic exercise such as running and swimming 3-4 times a week for 3 months has shown to aid sleep and lower the symptoms of depression.
  • Relaxation group therapy can be effective with the reduction of night time hot flushes.
  • Yoga can be used in the long term and has shown to be effective in the reduction of night time hot flushes.
  • Meditation has shown to reduce depression and help with hot flushes.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight can lessen the severity in the experience of symptoms. Studies have shown that being overweight can make symptoms worse in individuals.

WPA support for individuals and their families through the menopause

Treatment arising from or related to menopause is a general exclusion on most Private Medical Policies. Nevertheless there maybe benefit options available to assist with understanding the emotional impact of menopause – both those experiencing it and those who wish to be supportive of those experiencing it.

Health and Wellbeing Helplines

Alongside access to private healthcare, there is additional support available from WPA's Health and Wellbeing Helplines. For Group Schemes, this is included within the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) benefit option.

This is a confidential service, available 24/7, 365 days a year for WPA members and their families with these benefits included in their Policy/Group Scheme.

  • Wellbeing and Health Information;
  • Single-session Telephone Counselling;
  • Online computerised Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (cCBT) Life Skills Course;
  • Debt and Money Information and Support; and
  • Legal Information.

Referral to a Specialist

There are some individuals who experience severe or life impacting symptoms which may not have been attributed to the menopause by their GP. This may require a consultation and tests under the care of a specialist and benefit can be provided (within the terms of their chosen Policy/Group Scheme), to aid with diagnosis. It is expected that any prescription medication and ongoing follow-up will be provided by their GP.

Some symptoms thought to be menopausal may relate to an alternative diagnosis, such as fibroids and some other gynaecological conditions, and these will be covered under the Policy/Group Scheme (subject to any personal exclusions).

Structured Counselling

Where clinically appropriate, following referral from the Health & Wellbeing Helplines, up to six sessions of structured counselling.

This benefit is not available for individuals under 16 years of age.

Remote GP Services

Unlimited access to a private GP - either by phone or video, depending on which you prefer and which is most appropriate. Simply call the advice line to speak to a specially trained operator who will take some information and arrange for a GP to call back at a convenient time for you.


Many WPA products include a benefit for treatment by a therapist – the benefit available will be detailed in the relevant product literature.

All benefits mentioned on this page are subject to the Terms & Conditions of your WPA policy/group scheme and any personal exclusions on your cover.

Helpful links

The following websites are available with the aim of providing information, links to support and general guidance relating to the menopause.