Is nausea a symptom of menopause?
The menopause – when you stop having periods – can cause various physical symptoms, as your body goes through lots of changes.
Feeling sick (nausea) is thought to be a possible symptom. But it isn’t known how many people suffer from nausea due to the menopause, and there may be several causes.
It can be a side effect of medication, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It may also be that hormonal changes happening in your body during this time can trigger feelings of sickness.
Read on to learn more about why you can feel nauseous during the menopause, what treatment options are available, and when you should see a doctor.
What causes nausea during menopause?
In the menopause, your levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone drop. These hormonal changes also start to happen months or years before the menopause itself – a time known as the perimenopause – and can cause a range of physical symptoms.
Nausea may be more common during the perimenopause, because this is when your hormone levels start to change. It’s thought that this is what may trigger nauseous feelings, although it’s still not well understood.
Nausea can also be related to or caused by other menopause symptoms, including:
- hot flushes – during an intense hot flush, you may feel sick to the point of wanting to throw up or actually being sick
- hormonal headaches – these can make you feel sick and sometimes get worse around the menopause, because your periods may come more often and your normal hormone cycle is disrupted. Migraines can also become more frequent or severe
- dizziness – the part of your brain that controls dizziness also helps control nausea, so you can feel sick at the same time as feeling dizzy
- heart palpitations – these can happen because of hormone changes and can also cause nausea
Some medications used to treat menopause symptoms can cause nausea, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Certain antidepressants, such as citalopram or venlafaxine, can improve hot flushes but may also have side effects such as nausea.
When to see a doctor with menopause nausea
Nausea during the menopause and perimenopause may be linked to your changing hormones. But if it's not going away or keeps coming back, speak to your doctor, so they can check if there's anything else that could be causing it. They will also be able to offer advice and suggest treatment, if necessary.
Occasionally, there are times when nausea can be a sign of something serious, You should call an ambulance or get emergency medical help if you feel sick or have been sick and:
- you have a temperature (fever) and a stiff neck
- your vision is blurred
- you have a lot of abdominal pain
- you have chest pain and/or are short of breath
- you’re dizzy or confused
- you’re vomiting blood or your vomit is green or looks like ground coffee
- you have very dark, black poo
- you have a very severe headache
You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have nausea and:
- you’re losing weight without meaning to
- you have an ongoing fever, night sweats or swollen lymph nodes
- you have muscle weakness, joint pain and unexplained rashes
- you’re over 55 and also have heartburn (acid reflux), indigestion or upper abdominal pain
- you also feel bloated or your tummy looks swollen
- you've lost your appetite or feel full very quickly when eating
What’s the treatment for nausea during menopause?
There are several ways to help treat and manage nausea during the perimenopause or menopause. What’s suitable for you can depend on how bad the nausea is and what’s causing it.
Things you can try yourself to reduce feelings of nausea include:
- getting plenty of fresh air
- taking sips of a cold drink (some people find fizzy drinks work best)
- drinking ginger or peppermint tea
- eating foods containing ginger, such as ginger biscuits
- eating smaller, more frequent meals
- eating dry foods such as toast, breadsticks or crackers
- taking your mind off it by listening to music or watching a film
When eating, it’s also a good idea to avoid strong-smelling food or fried, greasy foods. Don’t eat too quickly or drink too much with your meals, and avoid wearing clothes that are too tight around your waist or tummy.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
If your menopause nausea is being caused by a drop in your hormone levels, or is linked to symptoms such as hot flushes or fatigue, your doctor may consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This can be very effective in treating menopausal symptoms.
However, nausea can be a side effect of HRT for some people. If your nausea gets worse when taking HRT, speak to your doctor.
There are various medicines available to treat nausea. Called antiemetics, they usually only need to be taken for a few days, and different types work in different ways.
Some speed up how quickly food moves through your bowels, while others block signals to the part of your brain that controls vomiting. Your doctor will be able to advise about whether these are suitable for you, depending on what’s causing your nausea.
Your health questions answered
Can menopause cause morning sickness?Answered by: Dr Roger Henderson
Just like during pregnancy, nausea during the menopause can be worse in the morning. During the perimenopause, it may also be associated with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It’s still possible to get pregnant during the perimenopause, so if you get morning sickness at this time you should do a pregnancy test if there’s a possibility you could be pregnant.
- nausea can happen during the menopause and perimenopause
- it may be caused by changing hormone levels, other menopause symptoms or certain medications
- diet and lifestyle changes can often help to reduce feelings of nausea
- hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be effective in reducing menopause symptoms, including nausea
- if your nausea doesn’t go away or keeps coming back, see your doctor