Seemingly, no two women’s menopause experiences are alike. Nearly everyone has a different combination of timing, symptoms, and perhaps most importantly, response to this life-altering transition.
We’ve come a long way, baby, in our attitudes toward menopause. Granted, women don’t discuss their menopausal stories as freely as we share our menstrual cramp and childbirth horror stories, but certainly since the Baby Boom generation reached menopause, it has become more widely seen as a natural phase in a woman’s life, rather than an old lady’s disease or a mental illness.
While the medical field has focused on identifying and treating the physiological effects of menopause on women’s health, social scientists have studied the impact menopause has on women’s quality of life. A 2006 study published in Social Science Medicine followed 1,525 British women aged 47 to 54 years to understand their perceived change in three quality of life areas: physical health, psychosomatic status, and personal life. Perhaps not surprisingly, work or family related stress was the most significant risk factor for decline across all three areas. Menopausal women reported more changes in physical health than pre- or perimenopausal women, while perimenopausal women reported more decline in their physical health and psychosomatic areas (nervous and emotional state, self-confidence). These areas improved among women taking hormone replacement therapy for at least one year. Other factors influencing menopausal women’s perceptions included physical inactivity, pregnancy history, and number of children (women with four or more children reported improvement in the psychosomatic area). Finally, the study found older women were less satisfied with their psychosomatic and personal life areas. So, it seems the menopause experience changes as one progresses through it and is influenced by numerous factors. But, the scientists concluded, the menopausal transition is not “overwhelmingly negative.”
How about you? Can you identify your menopausal stage? How do you perceive your quality of life?
Personally, I would agree that my perception improved vastly once I completed the transition. The perimenopausal years were very unpleasant; I felt unstable and uprooted. Now, nearly five years in, I feel a difference. Sure, I can still be moody and emotional, but I’m not nearly as unpredictable as I was a few years ago. Regular physical activity is as important as ever to my overall health and well-being, but the type of exercise has changed. My work is fulfilling and my family life is as stable as it can be – teen-aged kids are less time consuming (but just as worrisome), while our aging parents require more attention and care. Another highlight: freed from a monthly visitor, my cupboards and calendar have more room for new products and interests.
At Women To Women, Marcelle Pick’s “What I Love About Menopause,” outlines how we can bury the myths about menopause and make this a time to get healthy from the inside out. This week, challenge yourself to release an old perception and embrace a new one that brings you joy. Make menopause your best chapter yet.
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