How migrant women experiance and manage menopause
Stanzel K, Hammarberg K & Fisher J (2018) Experiences of menopause, self-management strategies for menopausal symptoms and perceptions of health care among immigrant women: a systematic review. Climacteric. 21(2):101-110. DOI: 10.1080/13697137.2017.1421922.
Menopause is a normal life transition and happens around the age of 45 to 55 years. Women often notice some physical symptoms and changes in their bodies at that time. How women experience these symptoms and changes depends on their culture, health, and personal circumstances.
The risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease increases after menopause. A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and eating a balanced diet can help women stay healthy for longer. To support women to stay healthy as they age, the idea of a ‘healthy menopause’ is that menopause care should address modifiable risk factors, offer health education, and promote health behaviours that reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.
Menopause and migrant women
We were interested to know how migrant women experience the menopausal transition, what they do to manage any symptoms and changes in their bodies, and whether they see a healthcare provider for advice about menopause health. We also wanted to know what healthcare providers find challenging and what is helpful when discussing menopause with migrant women. We searched medical and health databases for studies that had investigated these topics and summarized the findings of the 31 studies that we identified.
Studies that investigated migrant women’s experiences of menopause and how they manage any symptoms found that they commonly follow customs and traditions from their country of birth. Studies also showed that most women don’t see a doctor about menopause and if they see a doctor for other reasons, they don’t ask questions about menopause. The few migrant women who see a healthcare provider about menopause are often disappointed with the care they receive. Studies looking into what migrant women know about menopause found that they often have limited knowledge about menopause and health after menopause, and that they mainly receive information about menopause from family and friends.
Only two studies had investigated healthcare providers’ experiences of providing care to migrant women in midlife. They showed that healthcare providers are aware that migrant women follow customs and traditions from their country of birth to manage menopausal symptoms and that they rely on family and friends for information about menopause. Despite this they were reluctant to start conversations about menopause and what women can do to improve their chance of staying healthy as they age. Reasons for this included that appointment times are too short, lack of confidence talking about menopause with women from culturally diverse backgrounds, and lack of resources in languages other than English to share with migrant women.
So what now?
Taken together, the evidence suggests that migrant women might miss out on receiving the ‘healthy menopause’ messages. Educational and structural support for healthcare providers is needed to ensure migrant women receive comprehensive care in midlife, including information about what they can do to improve their chance of staying healthy as they age.
Dr Karin Stanzel
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence on Women and Non-communicable Diseases (CRE-WaND), Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.
NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence on Women and Non-communicable Diseases: Prevention and Detection
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