Changing Perceptions of Menopause

Holy Hormones Honey! We need to look at the menstrual cycle in each of its glorious phase – maiden, mother, wise woman as a natural cycle and not a disease that needs to be medicalized. The medicalization of women’s health is another form of suppression.  Women have every right to ‘understand their mind, mood and hormone cycle’ without the interference of synthetic hormones – and the ‘psychotic’  labeling that comes from hormone imbalance.

The change should be in how we perceive menopause

The Irish Times
November 13, 2012

Jacky Jones

SECOND OPINION: All women experience menopause at some stage, usually between 45 and 55 years of age. This marks the end of child-bearing and the start of the rest of their lives.

Menopause is an evolutionary puzzle because, apart from humans, pilot and killer whales are the only known species where females stop breeding relatively early in their lifespan. Most mammals become less fertile as they age and rarely survive beyond the point where their eggs run out, even in captivity. Humans and some whales are different because they carry on living long after the menopause.

Female killer whales reach menopause at age 50 and can live until they are 90. Female pilot whales stop breeding by age 36 and can live until 65.

A new study, published in the November issue of Ecology Letters, identifies a plausible reason for why women live many years after menopause. Using a 200-year-old data set of more than 14,000 people, researchers found that the need for older child-free women in human societies and reproductive conflict between in-laws may account for menopause in human females.

When grandmothers and daughters-in-law gave birth at the same time there was a 66 per cent reduction in offspring survival.

The evolutionary mechanism of natural selection meant that older women who stopped breeding when their daughters-in law began were more likely to survive and become important members of the tribe.

Child-free older women

The enhanced role of child-free older women brought distinct benefits to complex human societies. These women were free to be sources of wisdom, skills and cultural memory. Living for many years after menopause conferred benefits and status on older women and ensured the survival of the species.

The big question for women’s health in 2012 is how a natural phenomenon, which evolved over many millennia, became something to be regarded with apprehension, even dread, within one generation.

My mother gave birth to her last child at 46 and she looked forward to the “change” as a welcome release from the fear of pregnancy. Menopause meant freedom for women of my mother’s generation.

Over the past 50 years or so it has become an abnormality: something to be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or herbal remedies to prevent completely normal physical and emotional experiences.

It is not just drug companies and health food shops that make money from menopause. Walk into any bookshop and you will find shelves of self-help books on how to avoid, deny or defer these experiences as long as possible, if not forever. What has happened to menopause?

There is a reluctance to accept the reality of what happens before, during and after menopause, which can be summed up in two words: oestrogen withdrawal.

Like drug addicts, nearly 40 years of women’s lives are more or less controlled by very powerful hormones, which, like all mood-altering drugs, influence their emotions, physical health and relationships.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.