I have not yet experienced the symptoms of ‘menopause’, yet my mother and other family members started warning me at a young age of the senility, hot flashes, and potential facial hair growth that could occur. This, of course, made me anything but excited about reaching the end of my reproductive years. However, a recent lecture on the subject made me rethink much of what I, and my American female peers, have been told about menopause.
Some aspects I never considered before:
1. Every culture experiences menopause differently. Not every culture experiences the same symptoms or approaches the period in a woman’s life in the same way. Some speculate that the different symptoms may be due to the typical diets of various cultures. (1, 2)
2. Despite what we hear, many women have very few or no symptoms at all around menopause. (6) There is reason to believe that many menopausal symptoms reported are largely influenced by the environment and cultural beliefs woman have about that period of their life.
3. It is difficult to determine what symptoms are associated with age and which are due to menopause itself. One study demonstrated that men and women of similar ages experience many of the same ‘symptoms’ that are frequently associated only with menopause. Some of the symptoms that are proven to consistently plague women across cultures around menopause are hot flashes and vaginal dryness. (5)
While symptoms do occur during menopause, assuming problems are caused by the infamous ‘change of life’ could result in a misdiagnosis and unneccessary negative feelings and stress about a natural occurrence. Many problems may simply be from aging itself or other causes unrelated to menopause.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CHECK OUT THESE SOURCES ON MENOPAUSE:
1. Vanda. Menopause Center: What’s the Difference? Available online at: http://health.discovery.com/centers/womens/menopausenew/culture/culture....
2. Melby MK, Lock M, Kaufert P. Culture and symptom reporting at menopause Hum Reprod Update. 2005 Sep-Oct;11(5):495-512. Epub 2005 May 26. PMID: 15919681
Available online at: http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/dmi018v1
3. Medline Plus. Menopause. Last reviewed March 12, 2008.
Available online at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/menopause.html
4. Office on Women’s Health. Menopause and Menopause Treatments. March 2006
Available online at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/menopaus.htm
5. Obermeyer CM. Menopause across cultures: a review of the evidence. Menopause. 2000 May-Jun;7(3):184-92. PMID: 10810964
6. NIH State-of-the-Science Conference Statement on management of menopause-related symptoms.NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2005 Mar 21-23;22(1):1-38.
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