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Women’s experiences of perimenopause

McChlery, Sheena Maureen (2021) Women’s experiences of perimenopause. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Every woman, if she lives long enough, will experience perimenopause, the time period leading up to menopause when hormonal changes often cause physical, and sometimes emotional, changes. Whilst menopause has been extensively investigated perimenopause has received little attention and much of the existing research has been conducted by health professionals, with often only a narrow focus. In addition, the experience of women living through perimenopause is largely missing. Knowledge of such experiences can assist in understanding the meaning that perimenopause has for women, and can also assist in providing insight into the effectiveness of current models of care and management.

The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of Western Australian women living through perimenopause. A phenomenological approach, specifically, van Manen’s human sciences (2017) and phenomenology of practice (2014) approaches, were used to collect and analyse qualitative data from eighteen women. van Manen’s (2017) four existentials, namely corporeality, temporality, spatiality and relationality, were used as a reflective lens during the exploration and organisation of the data, resulting in the generation of themes within the four lifeworld existentials. A feminist framework also guided development of the research design and feminist theories, along with Leder’s (1990) essay on the absent body in everyday life, provided support for the discussion of the findings.

The women described their perimenopausal experiences in terms of challenges, and in terms of agency. Challenges related to the body, the environment, and the attitudes of spouses and other family members. The attitude and care provision of medical doctors was also viewed as a challenge by many women. However, the women demonstrated agency by finding alternative sources of care and ways of coping with their symptoms, by drawing on their mothers’ experiences to improve their own, and by seeking valuable friendships in which to safely discuss perimenopause.

The stories of the women demonstrated that the current medical model of care and management does not fit the needs of contemporary perimenopausal women. There is also a general lack of experiential information about perimenopause, and this has resulted in an incomplete and incorrect picture of perimenopause. In addition, adequate support structures for perimenopausal women are missing. Women demonstrate agency, however, by seeking alternative support structures and driving their own changes to improve their midlife health.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Social Sciences and Arts
Supervisor(s): Trees, Kathryn, Fetherston, Catherine and Richardson, Ingrid
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