Menopause and African-American women

A study of African–American women in menopause shows that while they experience many of the same symptoms as white women, they report more vasomotor symptoms such as dizziness and bloating, according to a study by a Yale School of Nursing researcher.

The study included 43 African–American women in two cities who identified themselves as experiencing menopause or change of life symptoms unrelated to surgical or medicinal intervention. A series of focus groups were audio taped and analyzed. The first author of the study was Ivy Alexander of Yale, whose book, “100 Questions and Answers About Menopause,” was published recently.

`The women reported symptoms common among white women in menopause—hot flashes, irregular menstruation, heavy bleeding, sleep changes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, decreased libido and urinary urgency. Other common symptoms were forgetfulness, depression, irritability, fatigue, headache, and skin and hair changes.

Less common menopausal symptoms reported by the African–American women were related to vasomotor functions, which involve constriction of blood vessels. These symptoms included dizziness, vaginal discharge, vaginal and body odor, hot feet, swollen hands, body rashes, bloating and joint stiffness.

“Some of the participants also described experiencing ‘rage,’ which was identified by participants as a bubbling up of indignation directed toward others—family members, coworkers, or friends,” said Alexander. “It was as if achieving menopause transported them into another phase of life, one in which the women fully expected to be treated better and were unwilling to settle for anything less.” Alexander said this rage also has been reported by white women and is perhaps a “coming of age” and outgrowth of individual women’s life experiences rather than representative of black or white culture.

Only 16 percent of the women were currently using hormone replacement therapy, and 68 percent had never tried it, although all of the women were aware of the option and had been offered a prescription by their clinician, Alexander said.


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