Have you ever given any thought to the history of menopause? I mean, how long have women been experiencing menopause? Is it a new thing? And, if it isn’t a new thing, why are people so unfamiliar with it?
With all our scientific, medical, and technological advances, how can it be that we’re still so behind when it comes to menopause?
There’s a saying: History repeats itself.
But even more impactful than that notion is the notion that, sometimes, history just gets stuck. And, believe it or not, sometimes, we even go backwards!
So, where are we when it comes to menopause?
Way back in the days of the Roman Empire, menopause didn’t even exist. Women only lived for about 23 years. Obviously, menopause was irrelevant. The few women who lived to the ripe old age of 40 and suffered symptoms of menopause were labeled “ailing females” and ignored.
Things stayed that way for the vast majority of human existence … despite the fact that our life spans have stretched well beyond the age of menopause. We were stuck.
Fast-forward to the 19th Century.
Back then, menopause was considered a time of emotional vulnerability. That’s when they incarcerated women for exhibiting “hysterical” behavior. In fact, the word, “hysterical” derives from the word “hyst,” which means “uterus” in Greek. The literal translation of the word “hysterical” is “emotional suffering in the uterus.”
And where do you think we get the words, “hysteria” and “histrionics”?
If those words are part of our lexicon, and they imply that the uterus makes women crazy, how do you think we’re going to move forward with menopause?
What about the 20th Century?
That’s when women began to routinely live long enough to experience menopause. That’s also when society valued women as sex symbols. Remember the slogan, “Sex Sells”? That was directed at women. Yet, most medical professionals were men at the time. And they shrugged menopause off as a state of mind. They had nothing to offer menopausal women.
Later that century, menopause was labelled “the estrogen deficiency disease.” And estrogen replacement at the time of menopause was the cure.
For a time, it was routine for women to take estrogen. And we discovered that estrogen prevented many long-term diseases of aging.
We were making progress. We weren’t stuck anymore.
But then we got to the 21st Century. And what happened then?
New studies incorrectly led women to believe that estrogen was more risky than beneficial. And women became fearful of estrogen replacement at the time of menopause, and stopped taking it.
We’d discovered the fountain of youth, prevented long-term diseases of aging, and improved women’s quality of life. But one wayward research study changed all that.
Women flushed their hormones down the toilet. Physicians stopped prescribing hormones due to fear of litigation.
Seventeen years into the 21st Century, there’s been no further change.
So, instead of being stuck, we’ve gone backward!
Fear is still fresh; education is still lacking; denial is still rampant.
How much longer will it be before we progress again?
Will we remain stuck, or will we go forward?