MENOPAUSE AND CULTURE
It is important to recognise that Menopause does not hold the same meaning across all women. Individual women will perceive menopause and associated symptoms differently, including the severity of their symptoms and the impact on their quality of life. Culture, race and religion may also play a large factor in a womans experience of menopause.
In the Western culture, the most common symptoms of menopause are described as hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. In Asian cultures, hot flushes are less reported but mood changes, sleep disturbance and aches and pains tend to be the predominant features.
The view of menopause is perceived differently between cultures. For example, the Western world tends to view menopause as the end of reproductive life. This may be associated with more negative connotations such as ageing, decreased sexual desirability and sometimes a sense of grief and loss. For this reason, many Western women ignore symptoms or fail to seek treatment options. Additionally, some women may not find it socially acceptable to discuss the symptoms of menopause openly, particularly in relation to more personal symptoms such as sexual and psychological issues.
A survey conducted in North America shows that:
“…only 25% (of women experiencing symptoms of vaginal atrophy) inform their attending physician of these problems. 70% of women said that their physician rarely or never asks them about problems such as vaginal dryness.” *
It appears many Western women (especially older women) are still uncomfortable raising or discussing vaginal symptoms with their family doctors. This reluctance is less apparent in younger women suffering similar symptoms who are more likely to research information online and pursue treatment options, especially following public statements by prominent individuals such as Angelina Jolie.
In other cultures, such as the African culture, women view menopause more positively as it equates to freedom with the end of reproductive life, leaving women open to explore other opportunities and roles within their community.
The data concerning vaginal problems in post-menopausal women in many Asian countries, such as India and the Middle East “are underestimated.” *
* Reference: D. W. Sturdee and N. Panay. Recommendations for the management of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. CLIMACTERIC 2010; Early Online, 1–14