Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Bored by Research Updates and News Headlines

January 3rd, 2013 by Heather Dillaway

"— Allons, à ton tour, ma petite... vas-y ! — Non, Papa ; si on devient si vilaine que ça en un an, j'aime mieux pas entrer".

By Achille Lemot (1846-1909) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes I think biomedical researchers and media spokespersons are just searching to find the pathology in our lives. Not that we don’t know this already, especially when it comes to women’s health. Because of how medicalization works, of course anything that veers from the defined “norm” for women (here, a young woman who menstruates every 28 days like clockwork) is pathological. Thus, menopausal women are pathological by definition. But, sometimes this gets pretty depressing, and really, it’s not very accurate considering that the vast majority of women go through menopause at some point during the midlife (so doesn’t that make menopause pretty normal and non-pathological?). In my Google alerts last week, here were the “menopause” headlines:

Diet, Exercise Post Menopause Help Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer
Medical Daily

Menopause linked to higher brain aneurysm risk

Healthy lifestyle during menopause may decrease breast cancer risk later on
Medical Xpress

Weight-y menopause
The Star Online

Diet To Overcome Menopause Problems

I do understand that there are many more health risks in middle age and beyond, and that changing/waning hormone levels at menopause induces different concerns/risks than women might have faced before menopause. Researchers, doctors, and media spokespersons have made it crystal clear over the past few decades that this is the case. But, as feminist and social science researchers have urged us to get beyond the “menopause as death” or “menopause as problem” perspectives, it seems that we’re not making much progress in thinking differently or more broadly about this transition. As I read the articles on menopause leading to more breast cancer risk, risk of brain aneurysm, and risk of weight gain, it is reaffirmed in my mind that we’ve made very little progress in broadening the dialogue (at least the published and mainstream dialogue) on this important life stage.

Sure, this life stage is filled with problems, risks, and interesting situations, but what life stage isn’t? Isn’t there published research coming out on ANYTHING ELSE about menopause? I want to read about something different! Readers, feel free to comment about any other interesting stuff you’ve read about menopause recently because I for one am searching for new takes on menopause. Seriously, people, was there nothing else new last week on menopause? As we head into 2013 I’m hoping for something new.

7 responses to “Bored by Research Updates and News Headlines”

  1. HeatherD says:

    Here’s a more positive headline that went across my email this week, so maybe I spoke too soon:

  2. Heather – I have always found it interesting that developing world countries have such a different view of women’s bodies and the natural phases that occur.

    I do not think you jumped the gun on this – we are all aware that the medicalization of women’s bodies is alive and well in the industrialized nations.

    Let us not forget Germaine Greer’s famous quote in ‘The Whole Woman’

    “A woman’s body is the battlefield where she fights for liberation. It is through her body that oppression works, reifying her, sexualizing her, victimizing her, disabling her.”

    Thanks for sharing the articles.

  3. Laura Wershler says:

    Heather, the really crazy thing about all this menopause fear-mongering is that a healthy menopause in large part is determined by a healthy pre- and perimenopausal life. More and more I’ve come to realize that healthy, ovulatory menstruation throughout our reproductive lives is the foundation for healthy middle and old age. It matters how we take care of ourselves in our 20s, 30s and 40s. And it matters that we understand the preventative powers of ovulation during our fertile years to protect our bones, breasts, heart and brains into our post-menopausal old age.

  4. I so agree with Laura. However, with the use of synthetic hormone contraceptives at an earlier and earlier age – before the endocrine system develops its own rhythm – and the lack of nutrients in our diet coupled with the large amount of xenoestrogens in our environment a ‘healthy menstrual, pre-and perimenopausal’ life is harder and harder to find.

  5. Paula Derry says:

    Some years back, I published a theory paper in a professional journal that was a positive view of the biology of menopause. I sent a copy to a senior mainstream behavioral endocrinologist. His comment was that he didn’t know if others in the field would agree with me, but he thought my paper would be much-discussed. Wrong. To my knowledge, it was pretty much ignored. As has my other work on the quality of the research linking perimenopause/menopause to health problems, etc. As has the long tradition of other researchers doing positive research. This is all work that is unlikely to make it into media sound-bites, but it also isn’t necessarily going to be noticed by critics of the status quo.

  6. Jonathan says:

    How about a study that looks at certain symptoms/risk factors that GET BETTER after menopause, such as fibroids, incapacitating migraines, a decelerating risk of breast cancer, and even incontinence (which is WORSE in pre-and perimenopause)??!!

  7. HeatherD says:

    Absolutely! Where are those study highlights? Funny how the script never gets flipped to the positive aspects of menopause. Good point, Jonathan.

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