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The Silent Passage: Menopause.

"The pregnancy club is for women a joyous one -- the menopause club is one nobody wants to admit she joined," says Tina Brown in an introduction to the book. The author tries to break the unnatural silence with a relentless assualt upon the taboo.

The passage from a woman's child-bearing years into premenopause, menopause, and postmenopause is usually the equivalent of three distinct lifetimes, attended by shock, mystery, confusion, and, for some, despair. Gail Sheehy makes a valiant attempt to erase the stigma of memopause and render normalcy to a normal physical process. "It should be the gateway to a second adulthood," she declares.

"About pregnancy," Sheehy remembers, "we are taught everything one could want to know ... By contrast, I went into menopause knowing nothing -- not even that I was in it. I was sure that I would just 'sail through it.' Instead, I veered off course, lost some of the wind in my sails, and almost capsized.

"But in trying to learn or talk about menopause," she continues, "I found myself up against a powerful and mysterious taboo. My friend were adrift in the same fog of inexcusable ingnorance. We couldn't help one another because none of us knew enough."

Sheehy did not remain mired in confusion for long. As a journalist, she decided to launch an investigation to explore the state of knowledge about menopause in the United States, Canada and Europe. She was astounded by the high degree of ignorance that permeated both the medical profession and women entangled physically and emotionally in the problem.

Many physicians knew enough about the physiological aspects of menopause, but seemed woefully ignorant of the psychological components. In her early forays into the confusion, the author was shocked to discover that the women on upper economic levels of society had at least a rudimentary knowledge of the problems facing them; those less educated and handicapped by a low economic existence were shockingly ignorant.

Unlike pregnancy, there is no choice for women. Each is subject to the inevitable arrival of menopause, although not all women suffer its many manifestations. For some, it is the crushing blow that signifies the passing of youth. It is a trauma not taken lightly by women who have enjoyed the benefit of their sex appeal to achieve rewards in both marriage and the outside world.

For others, there are physical discomforts that medical science has not assuaged to everyone's satisfaction. Estrogen replacement treatment can reduce many manifestations of hormonal depletion and physical change, but it also may posses the threat of cancer. When others experience menopause early, they rush to their physicians only to be told that "you're too young; it's not menopause." The author, quoting medical evidence, asserts that menopause can happen in a woman's thirties, the doctor's misdiagnosis notwithstanding.

In any discussion of the female's change of life, the subject of osteoporosis inevitably raises its head. A woman's life is not over when her estrogen levels recede; she can continue to live a gratifying life, sexual and otherwise. But a lack of estrogen can contribute to changes in bone mass. If estrogen replacement can be dangerous, what hope is there?

Gail Sheehy deals with that problem to some extent as have other writers and investigators (see issue #44, Nutrition Health Review). The matter of diet, for many, is a change in lifestyle.

The "hot flashes," the soaring and precipitous "ups and downs" of body temperature, emotional turmoil and the litany of complaints are expressed by many of the women Sheehy interviewed, every one adding to a fascinating report on menopause, a subject that, if freely discussed, might make way for a positive approach to the phenomenon of a woman finding her way to another gratifying phase of life. (Nutrition Health Review, Issue #44, Menopause: The Myth and the Reality, is available at $3.00 per copy, postage prepaid. Address: Back Issues, Nutrition Health Review, 171 Madison Avenue, New York City, New York 10016.)
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vegetus Publications
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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