Menopause can be a positive, empowering experience, especially when you’re surrounded by a culture with positive beliefs about menopause and aging.
Millions of people around the world go through menopause each year. If you have ovaries, you may have already experienced it or be going through it now.
Yet, in Western culture, menopause and the changes that come with it also come with a stigma.
The hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and insomnia are very real and sometimes severe.
But menopause is more than the sum of its symptoms. It turns out that your culture strongly influences how you experience menopause.
Let’s dig into seven common myths about menopause.
There’s a link between a positive attitude and reduced menopausal symptoms
People who live in a more negative psychosocial environment report having worse menopause symptoms. Similarly,
On the flip side, having positive attitudes about menopause can make the overall experience a neutral or positive one.
After all, menopause
The menopausal transition typically happens between the ages of
Western society tends to value youthfulness in women, so people from those cultures may see menopause as a loss of youth and sexual attractiveness,
Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), would like to see menopause celebrated.
“The fundamental problem with menopause [in Western culture] is it’s a condition of aging women,” Blount said. “This society has no use for aging women, and it certainly has no use for aging Black women.”
However, many other cultures celebrate aging and place a high value on older folks.
Menopause isn’t necessarily the end of something. It might start a whole new chapter in your life with new roles, responsibilities, and freedoms.
Menopause may seem scary if you’ve never experienced it, and Western popular culture tends to echo this belief.
But for some, menopause can be a cause for celebration.
One review of studies found that Aboriginal women in Canada had positive menopause experiences and that going through it increased their sense of freedom in their community.
Another menopause-related study involving 349 Ecuadorian women found that they had an overwhelmingly positive perception of menopause.
Three-quarters of participants said they felt menopause allowed them to enjoy sex more fully, and many expressed relief that they could no longer get pregnant. More than 60% said that menopause made their lives calmer and easier.
The language around menopause in Western cultures is dominated by negative descriptions like “reproductive failure” or “ovarian failure.”
Wording like this implies menopause is a disease rather than a natural transition,
But this just isn’t true.
“It’s a natural life process that 100% of us women are going to go through,” said Stephanie Faubion, medical director for The Menopause Society and director of Mayo Clinic Center for Women’s Health.
Not everyone who goes through menopause suffers through it. The positive perception some cultures have about menopause may make it easier to get through.
“We don’t have to normalize the suffering of menopause,” said Paula Green-Smith of BWHI.
Instead, she encourages women to ask for solutions.
“There are strategies or therapies that may be available to us that we can ask for and that our doctors should be able to talk to us about,” she said.
In Japanese culture, people refer to the menopausal transition as konenki — a process spanning from the early 40s into the 60s. Periods stopping is just one feature of this phase of life.
Broken down, the word konenki has positive connotations, translating to something like “energy renewal years” or “season of regeneration.”
The people in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway also tend to view aging and menopause positively, according to
People going through menopause in these countries said the experience was better than they thought it would be. They experienced fewer unpleasant effects than people in other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
When it comes to menopause, your perception is key.
First of all, it’s preferable to call it “hormone therapy,” not “hormone replacement therapy,” said Faubion.
“We’ve dropped the ‘replacement’ because we’re not trying to ‘replace’ the hormones that the ovaries used to make,” she explained.
Doctors prescribe hormone therapy only to manage menopause symptoms, so not all women need hormones after menopause.
“It’s those women who are symptomatic that might benefit from them,” said Faubion. But not everyone has symptoms, and hormone therapy isn’t right for everyone.
While suffering during menopause isn’t inevitable, you also don’t have to “power through it.”
The stigma associated with menopause can lead some people to hide or minimize their symptoms. This is especially true in the Black community.
“We really are socialized to just tough it out within the Black community,” said Green-Smith. “We are just kind of conditioned to make it work and get through it.”
However, actively managing your menopause symptoms
Menopause symptoms vary widely. You probably know about hot flashes, but we don’t talk much about other menopause effects.
For example, many people say they experience forgetfulness and “brain fog” with menopause.
And what some may brush off as “mood swings” can result from very real hormonal changes that increase a person’s risk of depression and anxiety during menopause.
No matter what you’re experiencing, even if you believe or have been told it’s “not that bad,” ask a doctor about the treatment options available.
They can help you find solutions, including medication, natural treatments, and self-care techniques that can help improve your quality of life.
“There are no systems of advocacy around menopause for Black women,” said Goler Blount.
However, she encourages People of Color to advocate for themselves with two important questions:
- What options are available to alleviate menopause symptoms?
- Were Black women a part of the clinical trials for the options presented?
Menopause experiences vary widely.
How you treat menopause symptoms (or not) depends on your goals, said Faubion.
For example, you might not be bothered by your mood-related symptoms, but vaginal dryness may be a top concern, she said.
Ask yourself what your goals are. Treatments should be tailored to you, said Faubion. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
Menopause symptoms also vary widely across ethnicities.
For instance, a
Additionally, a study of women veterans found that Black women were 26% less likely to be prescribed hormonal therapy for menopause symptoms when compared with white women.
Black women are also up to
“No matter what the symptoms, Black women are much less likely to have their symptoms addressed by physicians [than white women],” said Goler Blount.
“Education is really important, and women need to arm themselves with knowledge,” Faubion explained. Knowledge about menopause can help you understand what to expect, what not to expect, and your options for managing symptoms, she said.
Faubion added that that doesn’t mean everyone who goes through menopause needs treatment.
Here are some resources to start learning more:
- The Menopause Society
Office on Women’s Health National Institute on Aging
- Black Women’s Health Imperative
- National Institute of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health
And if a doctor tends to talk about menopause in only negative terms, consider finding a different healthcare professional who speaks more positively about the experience.
They may make all the difference in shifting your perspective and helping you feel good about the changes you’re going through.
Your attitude and the culture you’re a part of can make a big difference in how you experience menopause.
When you start to go through menopause, share your experiences with a doctor, even those you think might be typical. You might not need treatment, but if you do, it can help improve your well-being and quality of life.