Objective: There has been limited research on accurate staging of the menopausal transition in sub-Saharan African women. Our aim was to assess the usefulness of the Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop + 10 (STRAW + 10) criteria in staging ovarian aging in black South African women, examining whether obesity has any effect on the menopausal transition.
Methods: The study enrolled 702 women aged 40 to 60 years. STRAW + 10 criteria were used to categorize the stages of reproductive aging. The Menopause Rating Scale was used to measure the prevalence of vasomotor symptoms. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol levels were used as supportive criteria for staging. Human immunodeficiency virus status was assessed using a point-of-care method.
Results: Reported age at final menstrual period (FMP) was higher in women interviewed within 4 years of FMP (mean [SD], 49.0 [3.80] y) than in women interviewed 10 years or more after FMP (mean [SD], 42.0 [4.06] y; P < 0.0005). In women within 4 years of FMP, lower body mass index was associated with earlier age at FMP. FSH levels increased and estradiol levels decreased (P < 0.0005 for both trends) across seven staging groups. Human immunodeficiency virus status had no effect on menopause symptoms. Obesity (body mass index ≥35.0 kg/m2) was associated with severe vasomotor symptoms.
Conclusions: Reporting of age at FMP is unreliable in women interviewed 4 years or more after the event. STRAW + 10 seems accurate in staging reproductive aging, as confirmed by the strong association of FSH and estradiol levels with the menopausal transition stage. STRAW + 10 may be appropriate for use in resource-limited settings in the absence of biomarkers. Biocultural methods may be useful in assessing the menopausal transition in culturally diverse women.