chapter
11 Pages

Qualitative studies of

Given the different theoretical perspectives

that frame the meaning of the menopause,

ranging from deficiency disease to normal

developmental phase, it is often difficult to

now how closely these models match women’s

own experience or the extent to which women

draw upon different theoretical models when

describing their own menopause. From a

woman’s perspective the menopause has

acquired complex social and cultural

meanings, being inextricably linked to age and

often coinciding with life changes. For

example, ‘the change of life’ in popular

discourse reflects the view that the menopause

might be paralleled by role changes and

emotional and social adaptations that may

occur during midlife. Concepts such as ‘empty

nest’, physical decline, loss of femininity, loss

of sexuality, involutional melancholia and

vaginal atrophy have contributed to varied, but

generally negative, stereotypes of menopausal

women in Western cultures. When visiting a

doctor a woman is likely to share her doctor’s

language and present symptoms and side-

effects. What is not clear is how women

themselves think about and discuss

menopause-in other words what discourses

they use-in other settings. In order to explore

women’s views and experiences of the

menopause, we carried out a qualitative study

Forty-five women aged 49-51 were

recruited from the age/sex register of a general

practice in North London, serving a large

socially mixed area. Thirty-seven who were

perimenopausal, postmenopausal, or taking

HRT were asked about their lives, general

health, and the menopause. The interviews

were taped, transcribed, critically read by both

investigators, and taken to a peer group

discussion. Thematic discourse analysis was

used to explore women’s accounts of the

impact of menopause.22 Six broad themes

were identified from the women’s accounts,

which are outlined briefly below.