Date of Award

5-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Nursing

Major Professor

Sandra Thomas

Committee Members

Johnie N. Mozingo, Mitzi Davis, Howard Pollio

Abstract

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the meaning of the menopausal transition in Amish women. Using in-depth interviews, 10 Amish women who were transitioning into menopause were asked to responds to the question, “As you think of your experiences going through the ‘change of life,’ what specific things stand out for you?”

Three themes emerged: “This is such a natural thing.” a descriptor of natural/unnatural; “I don’t know if what I have has been normal, but what is normal?” a descriptor of change, the expected and unexpected; and “We finally figured it out.” a descriptor of a search for clarification/validation. Each theme was interrelated while being imposed on the background of health and the reproductive body.

As described by the participants, the menopausal transition is viewed as part of the reproductive cycle and is therefore considered part of the natural order of life. The accompanying bodily changes are expected and yet distinctly different for each individual woman. Preventive practices to guard against diseases, such as osteoporosis and cardiac disease are begun early in life while the women are still in their youth. Amish women do not view menopause as an escape from childbearing or a sign that they are aging. Many of the women interviewed experience childbirth after the age of 40 and expressed the belief that these young children maintained their youthfulness. The Amish do not experience the “empty nest syndrome.” While Amish women are not exempt from psychosocial disruption, decline in health, or depression, the women who described problems with depression and anxiety were more likely to relate a decline in their health status or other psychosocial issues. Many women expressed the thought that the transition into menopause had changed little in their daily lives, although they would like to be able to slow down and have some time to focus their energies on themselves.

Further research among the Amish women should explore the impact of later life pregnancy on transitional symptoms, the average duration and onset of the menopausal transition, and the occurrence, severity, and usual treatment of transitional symptoms.

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