Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
No matter where women live, menopause presents some common challenges and concerns. In Taiwan, women face the same fears and discomforts about menopause as women in western nations. As attitudes about menopause change around the world, learning the differences and similarities between women helps to improve menopause and women’s health awareness.
One of the most difficult steps with menopause is making that doctor’s appointment. What is it about menopause that makes women put off that necessary visit?
As a study conducted in Taiwan shows, women are often reluctant to talk to their doctors about menopause. While some western readers may be tempted to attribute this fear on a cultural basis, the same holds true for those very readers. Taking that step to acknowledge if not always accept being menopausal is an emotional undertaking. Just about every woman reading this understands that menopause is a physical, mental, and societal point of no return.
Taiwanese women and menopause
In April 2010, 402 Taiwanese women were randomly selected from around Taiwan and interviewed by phone. These women were between the ages of 45-65, and at varying stages of menopause. Among the most important findings from this study concerning women and their menopause symptoms:
*Only 30.1% of women had discussed menopause with their doctors, regardless of how mild or severe their symptoms
*Of those women, a third (33.9%) waited at least one year after experiencing any symptoms before visiting their doctors to talk about menopause
*Over half of the women 54.4% reported having three or more menopausal symptoms
*Roughly, the same number, 57.7% of women reported anxiety, depression, and increased impatience during and after menopause
*For some women, 30.6% of respondents, they did not want to involve family members in their menopause experience, or discuss what was happening to them
These numbers indicate women were able to self-identify themselves as menopausal but were still reluctant to visit their doctor for an official diagnosis. To have your doctor confirm menopause leaves little doubt about aging and the accompanying internal and external challenges.
One consequence with self-identification is that women preferred to seek out treatment options on their own rather than consult with healthcare providers. As just one example of self-medicating a menopausal symptom, 39.7% of Taiwanese women admitted to spending between $30-300 USD per month on dietary supplements to deal with weight gain. Incredibly, only 11.2% of these women thought that these over the counter options were helpful. Women would rather conduct their own trial and error menopause remedies on their own.
Doctors in the West note that some patients are afraid to approach the subject of menopause, as if these women are somehow ‘bothering’ their doctors. Others see it as women’s hesitancy to admit to menopause and middle age. Women in Taiwan are just as reticent as women in the West are about bringing up the subject and classifying themselves as aging women.
Traditional thinking tends to show Western women as more prone to the perils of aging and menopause. Yet even in societies where age and wisdom are revered, women still deal with loss of reproductive abilities and must find new purposes. Even in Taiwan, taking that first step towards a new life phase can be traumatic. These women remind us that we are not alone in our fears about menopause and the hopes of finding ways to make menopause less stressful and less difficult.
“Menopausal women facing their discomforts” Lee-Chyi-Long (TW) – Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou; Pei-Shan Lee, RN, Candidate PhD, Hsuan Su, M.D., Kai-Yun Wu, M.D., Dennis Wu, M.D. as presented at the 13th World Congress of Menopause in Rome, Italy 2011.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You