As I learn more about menopause, I am more and more aware that it is influenced by many different factors.
Recently, I looked into how women experience menopause in different cultures around the world, and even though biologically all women go through the same process, their physical and emotional experience varied hugely from place to place. The menopause is seen very differently in different cultures.
In the UK and North America, it often seems to be perceived (in the media in particular), as the end of youth and a time of instability and upheaval for women.
I wonder if this is in part the result of the obsession with youth and staying young that has been a feature of our society for several generations, and perhaps it also harks back to Victorian times when women who expressed strong opinions or challenged the status quo were considered unattractive and unwomanly!
Freedom from pregnancy
In Mayan culture, menopause is seen as a period of freedom from successive pregnancies and child rearing, with menopausal women given higher status and a level of freedom they do not experience until that time. Although they still suffer some physical symptoms, menopause is celebrated and looked forward to in a positive light.
Equality with men
In India, some women, who while menstruating have to cover up and remainsecluded from men, go on to celebrate menopause as a time when they can uncover and join in mealtimes and celebrations with the men, on an equal footing for almost the first time in their lives.
Top physical complaints of menopause
Europe and North America - Hot flushes and night sweats
Japan - Muscle stiffness, aches and chills
Nigeria - Shoulder stiffness
Lebanon - Fatigue and Irritability
This chart shows the different key complaints of menopausal women around the world. These differences suggest that our experience of menopause is hugely influenced by our environment and beliefs about this phase. In the native american Papago tribe, the menopause doesn't even have it's own word in their language. It isn't really recognised at all.
So we need to take this information, and use it to change things. We need to learn about how the menopause can be a gift, an opportunity and a new beginning. We need to celebrate what it is to be a woman at this time of life, and embrace the change, the upheaval, and this time of development and maturation.
But most of all, we need to support each other!