Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
Chinese women do not need a formal study to tell them about menopause. But as older attitudes towards ‘the change’ are evolving, healthcare professionals around the world are realizing that menopause is not a disease but a normal phase in a woman’s life. Learning about the newest findings in menopause research helps women everywhere understand more about their bodies during menopause as well as the latest options in treatments.
Studies about women during menopause are relatively new to China. Just as was the case in North America and the UK a few short decades ago, women’s health issues have been overlooked or dismissed as female hysteria. But now with greater awareness and increased understanding of medicine, menopause is being taken seriously as a condition that deserves understanding. For women in China, this means that women’s health matters are no longer treated as one big mystery and helps women understand what is happening to them during menopause.
Chinese women and menopause
China’s recent opening up is good news not just for Chinese women, but for women elsewhere. For years few Western women spoke up about menopause and many of the stigmas are still in place. Menopause has been treated as an afterthought by the healthcare profession and increased women’s shame and isolation. The more research is conducted in all cultures, the more women will benefit from better information, not to mention a decrease in feeling alone.
A recent example of changing attitudes is a study conducted by the Chinese Menopause Society, Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing. A total of 1850 women were interviewed; a small sample to be sure but a huge breakthrough for medical research.
A breakdown of the average participant ages shows Chinese women dealing with menopause at or just under the standard North American menopausal benchmark age of 51.
*Average age for natural menopause: 49.60 years old
*Average age for entering menopause transition: 46.22 years old
*Average age for onset of menopausal symptoms 46.28 years old
Menopausal symptoms and Chinese women
The women were asked about their menopausal symptoms. Not surprisingly, Chinese women tended to report the same symptoms as their North American or Western sisters. Insomnia was reported by 60% of the women, followed by hot flashes (51%), joint and muscle aches (18%), and exhaustion (16%). It appears no matter where women live in the world, they share many of the same menopausal symptoms.
Paraesthesia or odd skin sensations
One interesting symptom reported by a whopping 45% of the women was paraesthesia which refers to a skin sensation like pricking, burning, itching, or tingling that seems to have no real cause. This symptom is not usually high on the list of complaints for North American menopausal women but it is likely that many readers have experienced a feeling that their skin is ‘crawling’ or that skin is more sensitive than in the past. Some menopausal women find that their skin reacts to long favorite products including perfumes, skin lotions, and laundry detergents leading women to believe that they have developed allergies.
Chinese women and Japanese women
This study of Chinese women reveals that former beliefs of a homogeneous Asian culture are completely false. Compared to Japanese women, Chinese women report symptoms more familiar to North American, European and Australian women. Japanese women complain less about hot flashes and night sweats than do Chinese women. Researchers point to the large intake of soy typical in most Japanese diets; soy intake in China is relatively lower and more along the lines of a Western diet. With further research, scientists will be able to compare menopausal symptoms and between the similarities and differences, learn more about treatments.
What can we learn from our sisters in China? We can begin to see that no matter where a woman lives, she will deal with menopause and that many women will share the same symptoms. More importantly is the breakthrough in attitudes towards women’s health care. Menopause is a normal occurrence that deserves respect as well as the women dealing with it.
This info was obtained from the abstract of the published study Characteristics of Chinese women during menopausal transition. Qi Yu, President of Chinese Menopause Society, Department of OBGYN, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing 100730, P.R. China www.apmf.net/downloads/COGIBeijing2009.pdf.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You