According to an article that appeared in Our Bodies, Ourselves (a resource book for women), major biological transitions for women such as childhood and menopause, are often "medicalized". (The article was published in 2006, but I believe it is still relevant.) What does medicalization mean? It refers to treating a natural process as if it were a medical condition that requires some sort of intervention. According to Our Bodies, Ourselves, the normal physical changes that are associated with menopause tend to be perceived as pathologies that require some kind of help.
The book goes on to say that, “Some medical researchers, health care providers, and drug companies have defined menopause as a hormone ‘deficiency’ condition due to ovarian ‘failure.’ According to this view, menopause is a condition like thyroid deficiency or diabetes. If it is left untreated, we will be at greater risk for many chronic diseases, a lower quality of life, and premature death.”
Does this ring a bell to anyone? Haven’t we all been bombarded with this type of message? This was the reason for the widespread use of hormone treatment for postmenopausal women from the 1960s to early in the 21st century. It was called hormone replacement therapy. Doctors thought that by raising estrogen levels all the unpleasantries of menopause would be dealt with, and women would feel younger. This was in spite of the fact that no long term clinical trials of hormone replacement therapy had been conducted, according to Our Bodes, Ourselves. This same book maintains that this hormone therapy carries more risks than benefits for women.
Interestingly, Our Bodies, Ourselves explains that characteristics considered undesirable for a woman, have historically been attributed to her reproductive organs and hormones. For example some women in the nineteenth century had hysterectomies in order to treat a wide array of problems. Specifically, higher education for girls was not encouraged because it was feared that over stimulation of their brains would wreck havoc on their reproductive organs. Good excuse for keeping them pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.