Irregular and heavy periods marked the start of the menopause for Brenda. Loss of libido and the inability to carry out the Orthodox Jewish cultural practice ‘mikvah’ have led to tensions in her relationship. She has taken HRT to regulate her periods.
Brenda feels that she is only at the very beginning of her menopause story. Having always had a regular menstrual cycle, she first noticed her periods becoming irregular about a year ago as well as experiencing hot flushes at night which affected her sleep. Concerned at her extremely heavy flooding the bed type periods;, Brenda consulted her GP who dismissed her problems with if you;re over 40 anything can happen;. Unimpressed, Brenda saw a gynaecologist privately, had a small fibroid removed and a Mirena coil fitted, which has to some extent controlled the heavy bleeding.
Central to Brenda’s menopause story is the Orthodox Jewish cultural practice of mikvah;. Couples do not sleep together for five days while a woman is having her period and for the following seven days. At the end of this time, the woman undergoes a ritual bath, known as mikvah;, at which stage she is able to resume sexual relations with her husband. For a menopausal woman, however, irregular periods can interfere with the timing of this practice and consequently with her availability to her partner. In Brenda’s case, her inability to make mikvah; every month, combined with a loss of libido I don’t want anything to do with sex;, has created friction in her marriage. Initially Brenda blamed herself for this, feeling that she had failed the test;. Reading books on the menopause, however, has helped her understand that loss of interest in sex may be one of the changes associated with the menopausal transition. HRT (norethisterone) has helped regulate her cycle, although she is planning to come off this because of associated weight gain.
With five teenage children and ageing parents to care for, Brenda’s life is very busy. Yet while this has added to the stress of the menopause, she has never discussed it with girlfriends, nor heard anyone else in her community talk about it. Indeed she is unsure whether there is even a term for menopause; in Hebrew. Recently, however, she has begun to talk to her husband about the changes she is going through to help him understand more about the menopause.
Brenda believes that the menopause represents a transitional phase in her life. No longer enjoying the status associated with having children, she is yet to reach the stage of being mother of the bride; or grandmother. She feels that women her age are a very invisible group of people; with very little voice; in the community. Nevertheless, she looks forward to being postmenopausal when, freed from the need to make mikvah;, she can enjoy a more relaxed relationship with her husband and assume new roles in the community.
Brenda was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in March 2009.