How long do post-menopause symptoms last?

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

10 June 2024

When are you considered to be post-menopausal?

Many people have the misconception that in post-menopause, after periods have stopped, all symptoms just stop. And unfortunately, this is really not the case.

First of all, we need to consider when post-menopause arrives. Officially, you are post-menopausal when you haven’t had a period for one year.

In our experience over the years that we've been doing all these video blogs and information on menopause, two years after your last period is a safer time to consider yourself to be post-menopausal. We've had so many women over the years, who have come to us because their periods have come back after 18 months, or they've ended up with spotting around the 18-month mark. After 2 years, it’s extremely rare for any further periods to happen.

Post-menopause is the time when you can no longer get pregnant. So, if you just go by the one-year measurement and then you get a period back after a year and a half, it means your hormones are still shifting a little bit. And the last thing we want is for anyone to have an unwanted menopause pregnancy. So, for us, we consider post-menopause to be two years after your last period.

How long can symptoms last after your last period?

Post-menopausal symptoms can vary significantly in duration and intensity. You have a unique menopause. You will also have a unique post-menopause. For some, they find that common symptoms, such as hot flushes, sweats and anxiety tend to tail off maybe around two years after periods have stopped. So, the average timescale for most symptoms is between three and seven years.

Now, please don't sit there gasping, and thinking, "That's going to go on forever." You're all very much individual. So, for some of you, you'll hardly get any symptoms at all once the periods have stopped. Some may find that they get them for maybe a couple of years, and then they disappear. For some women though, it may go on a lot longer. But often, in that situation, there are other things to take into consideration, which I will go into more detail about later in this article.

As hormones reach a new normal (a much lower level of hormones), once they get there, there are fewer hormonal fluctuations. There are fewer dips or spikes and that's usually when symptoms start to ease off. Your body has learned to adjust to a lower level of hormones. And for a lot of you, your body will be able to cope perfectly well at this level.

Why do some symptoms last longer than others?

There are lots of reasons. Here are a few to consider:

Stress is a huge one. And I know, for me, one of the things I've noticed as time goes on, as we get more and more stressed because of what's going on in the world and our daily lives, is that stress has a huge impact on perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause symptoms.

It can be due to poor sleep. If you've got into a poor sleeping routine or experienced sleep issues during menopause itself, then you're possibly going to still have poor sleep in post-menopause.

It could be that you haven’t treated specific symptoms. It's amazing how many women get certain menopause symptoms and they think, "Well, it's going to go in a couple of years, so I'll just put up with it."

I always recommend, if you get any specific symptom, that you start treating it as soon as possible because some symptoms will degenerate over time. So, if you start getting joint pain in perimenopause, it's important to start treating it and supporting your joints because if you don't, the joints can start to deteriorate, and you could end up with osteoarthritis. So, it's always a good idea to look at specific symptoms and support your body in some way to help it deal with them.

It can be due to a poor diet. Nutritional needs go up as we age because our body needs more of everything. So, it's really important to have a good, varied diet.

It can be lifestyle factors too. If you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol, then both of these can prolong menopause symptoms, so just be aware of that.

Symptoms coming back

Supposing you've been through the post-menopause, and symptoms have eased off, but then five or seven years down the line, suddenly symptoms start to come back.

When this happens, it’s often anxiety, hot flushes, and night sweats. It's unlikely to be hormonal if symptoms appear from nowhere, but it's not impossible if you have come off HRT - coming off HRT can bring your symptoms back.

Falling in love can bring symptoms back. It can whiz up your hormones again, and sometimes, if you really improve your lifestyle and diet, your body can have a little ‘whoopee’ moment and your hormones can come back.

But in normal circumstances, if your symptoms come back suddenly, if it's after five years or more without periods, then it is likely to be other issues. Factors to consider are vitamin D deficiency, B12 deficiency, and anaemia. Even if you're not having periods, especially if you're vegetarian or vegan, you can develop anaemia post-menopause. Symptoms could also be due to thyroid problems, diabetes, or heart disease. All of these will cause symptoms that can be absolutely identical to menopause ones.

In this situation, I always recommend asking your doctor for a general health check to get all of these checked out, because if any of these start to develop, they need treatment specifically and individually. And hormone medication and supplements are unlikely to be helpful in this situation.

Self-care after menopause

So, it's really important to still look after yourself well when you are post-menopausal. I've discovered over the years that self-care is an ongoing process and we need to keep looking after ourselves well. We need to keep adjusting for when we start to grow older because our bodies need different things at different times.

One of the most important things is water. We need to be hydrated, especially for things like brain function and joints post-menopause. This is important.

Get your diet sorted. Make sure you're getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and good-quality protein. We need more protein as we get older, so that's important, as well as whole grains and healthy fats, especially to keep our brains and our joints going.

Sleep well. If you're having poor sleep, this needs to be addressed.

Regular exercise is still important. I'm not suggesting you should be exercising like mad here. I've just been reading some really interesting research on exercise as we get older, and they're now looking at walking as being the best exercise that you can do. Even just 15 minutes a day outside is worth its weight in gold to keep your body that little bit fitter as you go into post-menopause.

Also, look at relaxation and things to help with stress relief. Make sure your stress levels are as low as possible.

When you get to post-menopause, don't just think, "That's it. I can stop everything. I don't need to look after myself. That's it, all over and done with."

If you've been taking supplements during perimenopause and menopause, do continue them because your body still needs that extra support as you go through post-menopausal life. Just remember though that not all symptoms are connected to post-menopause. So, if anything comes up that you're not sure about, or if any symptoms you have suddenly start to get worse instead of easing off, please do double-check with your doctor.

I hope you enjoyed this one. I mean, the other day, I had four questions about this in just one day. So, it seems to be coming more to the fore, or more of you are looking at what's going to happen post-menopause.

So, I hope you find this helpful. As always, please post your stories. How did you help yourself? What have you found useful? Please share your tips because they're bound to be helpful for someone else as well.

Until next time, take care and have a lovely week.

You may also find these topics helpful:

10 things you need to know about post-menopause

After menopause: 4 questions women ask about post-menopause - Part 1

After menopause: 4 questions about post-menopause symptoms – Part 2

Post-menopause: the good, the bad, and the problematic

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