There is really only one thing you can be sure of in life and that is death, so the saying goes.

However, for women, there's something else - the menopause.

Whoever you are or whatever you do, you will at some stage in your life (usually between the ages of 28-58), experience The Change.

That's not to say it will, necessarily, have an adverse effect on your life.

Just as many women never have a period pain or pre-menstrual tension, there will be those who sail through the menopause. For others, the symptoms can be irritating, embarrassing and even debilitating.

Jenni Murray, presenter of Radio 4's Woman's Hour, calls it one of society's last great taboos, which is often "moaned about in private with one's mates but never shouted from the roof tops".

In her book, Is It Me Or Is It Hot In Here?, Ms Murray writes about the menopause, recounting the experiences of well-known women such as Glenda Jackson, Margaret Thatcher, Gloria Hunniford, Edwina Currie and, of course, herself.

"At the age of 46, with no prior warning and no history of depressive illness, I woke up one morning looking into a black tunnel with no light at the end," she recalls.

"Nothing in my external life could justify such misery. My job as a presenter was as enjoyable as ever, my two grown children were hale and hearty, my parent's fit and well and my partnership of 20 years was solid and satisfying.

"Nevertheless, for several months, every wakening was a sock in the stomach and every programme a huge effort of will."

Aside from the possible onset of depression, other symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, confusion, memory loss and palpitations, which are thought to be experienced by around 80 per cent of menopausal women.

By far the most obvious and public of these symptoms is hot flushes, as Ms Murray remembers:

"Is it me or is it hot in here? Were words I first uttered, in genuine discomfort, during an extremely hot, outside summer broadcast, a couple of years ago," she says.

That rhetorical question caused a ripple of laughter in recognition and 3,000 sympathetic letters from people listening at home thanking her for being brave enough to mention a hot flush in such a public arena.

The fear of "going public", it seems, is that women think they will be judged as incapable of making decisions if they admit they are suffering from certain symptoms of the menopause.

However, as Ms Murray points out in her book, it didn't stop Margaret Thatcher from running the country. Mrs Thatcher was believed to be an advocate of HRT and it is that, says Ms Murray, that may have kept her buoyant.

The pros and cons of HRT is one of the main chapters in her book. Also covered are all the alternatives to HRT, including helping yourself with diet and exercise.

The book explains what can happen physically, psychologically and socially when a woman goes through the menopause. It tells the stories of numerous women who have experienced it.

All of them are essential reading to women who have, or will one day have, the menopause.

Is It Me Or Is It Hot In Here? by Jenni Murray is published by Vermillion at £12.99.

Report by Nadine Bateman,