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.
Menopause has different symptoms in different women, these include:
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.
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.
Certain women may experience such severe symptoms of menopause they miss taking some doses of their HIV treatment. If you're struggling, you should let your healthcare team know as they're best placed to help you.
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.
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.
If you have severe menopausal symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life, your healthcare team may suggest treatments including:
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.
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.