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J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000;9 Suppl 2:S27-38.

Women's stories: ethnic variations in women's attitudes and experiences of menopause, hysterectomy, and hormone replacement therapy.

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Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA.


To increase understanding of women's midlife changes, 23 focus groups were held to investigate the possible ethnic variations in attitude toward and experience with menopause, hysterectomy, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, and Navajo women in New Mexico. The medical definition of menopause, no menstrual bleeding for 12 months, did not coincide with the women's definition of menopause as the hormonal fluctuations they experienced before, during, and after any change in their menstrual cycle. More women reported having to fight to have a hysterectomy than having one unnecessarily. Women complained about the lack of information and preparation prior to having a hysterectomy and expressed dissatisfaction with doctor-patient communication, but they were satisfied with their hysterectomy because they felt better after the surgery. Although women in the study reported that menopause and hysterectomy are seldom discussed openly, they all participated freely in the storytelling focus groups. The most traditional women, primarily rural Navajo and newly immigrated Latina, related few or no menopausal symptoms with natural menopause or after hysterectomy. Many of these women had not even heard of HRT. Many women who had been prescribed HRT expressed dissatisfaction with the side effects and dosage. Unsupervised tinkering with the dosage was the rule rather than the exception. The study revealed that women are much more alike than they are different. Traditional women in all ethnic groups had more in common with each other than they did with the least traditional women in their own ethnic group.

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