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Exploring Australian Aboriginal Women's experiences of menopause

Despite extensive literature demonstrating differing experiences in menopause around the world, documentation of the experience of menopause in Australian Aboriginal women is scarce thus their menopausal experience is relatively unknown. This study aimed to understand Australian Aboriginal women's understanding and experience of menopause and its impact on their lives.

The study was an exploratory qualitative study. Twenty-five Aboriginal women were recruited from a regional centre in the Mid-West region of Western Australia using opportunistic and snowballing sampling. Interviews and focus group discussions were undertaken from February 2011 to February 2012 using open-ended questioning with a yarning technique. Thematic analysis was undertaken of the transcribed interviews.

A number of themes were revealed. These related to the language used, meanings and attitudes to menopause, symptoms experienced, the role of men, a lack of understanding, coping mechanisms and the attribution of menopausal changes to something else. The term "change of life" was more widely recognised and signified the process of ageing, and an associated gain of respect in the local community. A fear of menopausal symptoms or uncertainty about their origin was also common. Overall, many women reported insufficient understanding and a lack of available information to assist them and their family to understand the transition.

There are similarities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal experiences of menopause, including similar symptom profiles. The current language used within mainstream health settings may not be appropriate to this population if it fails to recognise the importance of language and reflect the attributed meaning of menopause.

The fear of symptoms and uncertainty of their relationship to menopause demonstrated a need for more information which has not adequately been supplied to Australian Aboriginal women through current services.

While this study is with a select population of Aboriginal Australian women, it reveals the importance of acknowledging differences, particularly in use of language to convey ideas and support Aboriginal women experiencing menopause.

Reference

Jurgenson JR, Jones EK, Haynes E, Green C, Thompson SC. Exploring Australian Aboriginal Women's experiences of menopause: a descriptive study. BMC Womens Health. 2014 Mar 20;14(1):47. [Epub ahead of print]

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Content updated March 2014

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