What do women with learning disabilities understand about the menopause?

Middle-aged woman

The onset of the menopause in women with learning disabilities occurs earlier than in the general population, and earlier still in women with Down’s syndrome (DS).

This study set out to listen to a number of women with learning disabilities to find out what they knew about the menopause and about their sexual health more generally.

The information gathered for the study came from 45 women with learning disabilities (17 with Down syndrome, 28 without Down syndrome; aged from 35–65) using a semi-structured interview.

The study found that most women were unaware of the fact that they were undergoing menopause-associated changes. Few of the women interviewed were able to show that they understood why they menstruated.

The study authors also found that support services had difficulties in disentangling behavioural consequences of menopausal symptoms from behaviours that were arising from other causes, which caused some difficulties for the women concerned and for the nature of the support they received. The findings are discussed in the article in the broader context of health education training and the authors suggest a need for more accessible health resources to help women to understand issues and take more control of their situation.

They conclude that better awareness of menopause-related health issues in women with learning disabilities would significantly improve the experience of this important life change and that more readily available health education materials specifically tailored to the needs of people with learning disabilities would be a major step in helping this to happen.

Menopausal Experiences of Women with Intellectual Disabilities, Willis D et al, in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 74–85.

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Andre Tomlin

Andre Tomlin

André started the Mental Elf website in May 2011. He has worked as an Information Scientist in Mental Health since the late nineties; initially at Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Mental Health and since 2002 as the Managing Director of Minervation Ltd. He loves blogging, social media and elves! He also has established interests in evidence-based healthcare, usability testing and web design.

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