Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
World Menopause Month is here again and this October 2011 means time to reflect on the advances made in women’s health care. Significantly, numerous research studies indicate increased awareness of women’s health issues in the developing world.
Earlier this year, the International Menopause Society held its 13th World Congress on Menopause. Held every three years, this conference brings together leading menopause and women’s health experts from all over the world. The most exciting outcome, besides the findings themselves, deals with the now far-reaching interest in women’s health beyond the West. Instead of thinking in Western terms alone when it comes to understanding menopause, researchers are learning more about the differences and similarities women around the world face during perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Many clinical trials and research projects are still in their earliest stages, requiring additional work. Yet what the following highlights of the conference show is that some of the symptoms usually associated with Western women are showing up in women around the world.
*A presentation dealing with the quality of midlife women in Tunisia and France shows greater numbers of women report feelings of depression, vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes for example), and sleep disorders. This helps shatter the idea that only Western women deal with mood swings and anxiety surrounding menopause.
*Women in Mexico are just as likely to report having hot flashes, irregular menstrual periods, and sleep problems. Irritability was also widely reported.
*Studies in Hong Kong demonstrate quality of life is a key concern for women in middle age. Common complaints include libido and genital issues in addition to vasomotor symptoms and psychological issues. Hong Kong itself is a unique area of study due to its Eastern geographical and racial make-up with a heavy Western socio-economical influence. Research is looking into how Western and Eastern ideals and values affect midlife women in Hong Kong.
*Recent studies of Iranian women confirm the prevalence of health issues including osteoporosis. With increased life expectancy and a growing aging population, it is time to give serious attention to women’s healthcare.
*Brazilian women report increased diagnosed cases of osteoporosis and medical experts are determining the impacts of both heredity and lifestyle habits.
*Indonesian women also face increased risks of developing osteoporosis in midlife and beyond. Researchers are interested in educating women about risk factors and preventative measures.
*Similar osteoporosis research has been undertaken in Serbia to help discover links between lifestyle factors and increased life expectancy for women.
*Obesity is a widespread epidemic in the developed world. New findings in Poland are trying to determine how obesity affects women in midlife and the expected outcomes for these women in their postmenopausal years.
*Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is no longer just a Western prescription controversy. Women in Borneo Island are taking part in studies aimed at helping doctors and their patients understand who is best suited for HRT. This has also led to understanding that more needs to be done to open up the lines of communication for menopause and women’s health.
*Brazil’s healthcare experts are also learning about the effects of a soy-based diet and how this alternative approach compares to low-dose HRT. This opens up the options for women to explore when considering menopause treatments.
*Premature Ovarian Failure (POI) is only now getting serious attention. Studies in Slovenia are helping women deal with a potentially traumatic health issue and increase healthcare providers’ awareness of treatments and patient education and empathy.
*Women in Israel approaching midlife face the reproductive issues both in terms of planned and unplanned pregnancies. The increased risks of miscarriage in women over forty are similar to those faced by women in the West.
*The African perspective on menopause is one of many studies dealing with the understanding of cultural expectations of women and their changing roles in society. A study out of Zaire examines how education and health awareness affect women approaching midlife.
*Emerging studies from the Middle East are creating greater awareness of menopause for Islamic women who are learning about healthcare within the context of cultural and social traditions. There is also a call for healthcare professionals around the world to include cultural sensitivity and awareness when approaching women’s healthcare.
While a great amount of work lies ahead, the importance of the advances made in menopause research underscore the start of greater women’s healthcare equality. This World Menopause Month is a time to celebrate how far we have come and look to an improved quality of life for women no matter where they live.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You