Little attention paid to menopausal transition experiences or wellbeing of women with learning disabilities

Middle-aged woman

In the mid 1990s, a questionnaire study carried out by Carr and Hollins in Wandsworth suggested that menopause may occur earlier in women with learning disabilities and that for women with Down syndrome, it may occur earlier still.

These findings were strengthened by work a couple of years later in a U.S. study by Schupf et al., which found that the age-adjusted likelihood of menopause was twice as high in women with DS syndrome as in women with other learning disability which they suggested may be associated with accelerated aging.

The authors of this study in Taiwan however were interested in how women with learning disability cope with life transitions such as the menopause. The authors used a mixed methods approach, carrying out a survey and a series of in-depth interviews to look at attitudes towards and experiences of menopause among women learning disabilities and their family carers in a Taiwanese city.

Results of their survey found that the way carers perceived levels of menopausal symptoms in their female family members with learning disabilities was affected by their own attitudes toward menopause. Other significant factors associated with carer attitudes to the menopause were carer age and level of education.

From the in-depth interviews, they found that a number of factors associated with the way carers felt about the menopausal transition of the women with learning disabilities, including carers’ gender, age, kinships with the women with learning disabilities and also the carers’ own menopausal experiences.

They conclude that little attention has been paid to menopausal transition experiences or the wellbeing of women with learning disabilities throughout this process and that carers own experiences were powerful shapers of their responses.

Menopause experiences and attitudes in women with intellectual disability and in their family carers, Yueh-Ching Chou et al., in Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 38, 2 , 114-123

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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