The purpose of this study was to determine midlife women's images of menopause and their expectations of their own menopausal experiences.
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).
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.
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.
©1999The North American Menopause Society