Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine midlife women's images of menopause and their expectations of their own menopausal experiences.
Design: Participants in the Seattle Midlife Women's Health Study (n = 508) responded to a question about their definitions of menopause, and their expectations and concerns about their own menopausal experiences during an in-person interview conducted at entrance to the study between late 1990 and early 1993. At that time, women ranged in age from 35 to 55 years (median, 41 years); 80% were European American and were well educated (median, 15 years).
Results: Women defined menopause in the following ways: (1) cessation of their periods, (2) end of their reproductive ability, (3) a time of hormonal changes, (4) a change of life, (5) a changing body, (6) changing emotions, and (7) an aging process. Few women defined menopause as a time of symptoms or disease risk or a time for medical care. Women were most likely to be uncertain of their expectations of their own menopause, and many had no expectations.
Conclusions: This cohort of midlife women did not seem to have adopted a medical model of menopause and were most likely to view menopause as a normal developmental process. Their uncertainty about what to expect provides an opportunity for health teaching and anticipatory guidance.
(C)1999The North American Menopause Society