Sources of information

Women find information on the menopause from a wide variety of sources, including their doctor, friends, relatives, the media and the internet. We asked them to tell us about the sources of information they’d used.

Finding out about the menopause
Women differed in their views about the quality of information about the menopause: some thought that as a society we are still too secretive about anything to do with ‘women’s issues’ others thought that ample information was available to anyone who wanted it. Some were amazed to realise how little they knew about such a natural process that affects half the population. One woman said that she had known nothing about the menopause except ‘just that you stop having your periods, yippee!’

Several women had not looked for information about the menopause because it seemed an entirely natural process that they did not think needed to be dwelt upon. This was particularly so if they had an easy menopause – one woman who sailed through the menopause with no symptoms said that she had no need to find information on the internet because she ‘blinked’ and missed the whole thing.

On the other hand, women who had a difficult time with symptoms, or who had found it hard to find a reliable source of advice for treatment, were often frustrated by a lack of information. Several remarked that at the GPs you could see information about ‘smoking, pregnancy, children’s things and hearing aids, you name it, but nothing about the menopause’ (see ‘Consulting the doctor’ and ‘Advice to health professionals’).

Newspapers, magazines and books
Newspapers and women’s magazines sometimes had stories about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or case studies about experiences of the menopause. One woman had been seeing a counsellor but when she saw a brief article in a professional magazine, listing twelve menopause symptoms, she realised that the menopause might be responsible for how she was feeling. Some women noted that the media seemed more interested in publishing sensational stories than in finding a balanced account that would help women struggling with symptoms.

Women found that books on the menopause by writers such as Miriam Stoppard, Germaine Greer, Jenni Murray or Leslie Kenton had helped them to understand what was happening in their bodies and to identify social attitudes to the menopause. One woman mentioned having read a Which? report about treatments for menopausal symptoms. Others noted that the menopause is not exactly a ‘glamorous’ topic, which possibly explained why it never seemed to turn up in novels.

The internet
Almost everyone we talked to was an internet user and many consulted websites as a matter of course – usually Googling the term ‘menopause’ rather than visiting a specific site. A number of women praised the Menopause Matters website, run by Dr Heather Currie, a gynaecologist, offering information, advice and a forum where women can share experiences (see 'Resources and information').

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But even those with access to the internet did not always find what they wanted to know. Sites that were too American, or sponsored by drug companies, or which offered only partial information (such as testimonials for HRT) were all described as rather worrying.

Women said that they recommended good websites to their friends. One woman who had used the web to find out a lot about treatments noted that not everyone would feel comfortable searching for information. Another said she would use the web with care because a little knowledge could mislead.

There are several menopause chat rooms, or forums, on the internet and we talked to women who had visited sites such as Menopause Matters. Women said they learnt from each other and were helped by hearing that there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. It could be reassuring to see that, no matter how unusual the problem, the chances were that there would be someone, somewhere in the world who was dealing with similar issues and posting their experiences on a website (see ‘Support networks’).

However, one woman admitted she tends to ‘zoom in on the worst experiences, which plays on my mind a little bit’. Another, who had a good relationship with her doctor, said she would rather go straight to ‘the horse’s mouth’ for guidance than consult other women (see ‘Consulting the doctor’).

The information needs of women who had had an early menopause differed since they could not readily compare notes with anyone in their own peer group (see ‘Early (premature) menopause’).

With over two million sites on the menopause on Google in the UK, there is no lack of readily available information on the menopause. But it is difficult to find a way through all this to reliable sources which offer unbiased advice. It’s important to access a range of websites, books, magazines, media articles and academic papers and to discuss your findings with a doctor before making any decisions about treatment options.

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Last reviewed February 2015.


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