=In the Large.= Looked at from any angle, this subject is an important one. There are involved not only the physical comfort and convenience of the sufferers themselves, but also the economic prospects of women as a whole. If women are to demand equal opportunity and equal pay, they must be able to do equal work without periodic times of illness. When employers of women tell us that they regularly have to hire extra help because some of their workers lose time each month, we realize how great is the aggregate of economic waste, a waste which would assuredly be justified if the health of the country’s womanhood were really involved, but which is inefficient and unnecessary when caused merely by ignorant tradition. “Up to standard every day of every week,” is a slogan quite within the range of possibility for all but the seriously ill. When reduced to their lowest terms, the inconveniences of this function are not great and are not too dear a price to pay for the possibilities of motherhood.
=Another Phantom Peril.= As the young girl is taught to fear the menstrual period, so the older woman is taught to dread the time when the periods shall cease. Despite the general enlightenment of this day and age, the menopause or “change of life” is all too frequently feared as a “critical period” in a woman’s life, a time of distressing physical sensations and even of danger to mental balance.
As a matter of fact, the menopause is a physiological process which should be accomplished with as little mental and physical disturbance as accompanies the establishment of puberty. The same internal secretion is concerned in both. When the function of ovulation ceases the body has to find a new way to dispose of the internal secretion of the ovary. Its presence in the blood is the cause of the sudden dilatation of the blood-vessels that is known as the “hot flash.”
The matter is altogether a problem of chemistry, with the necessity for a new adjustment among the glands of internal secretion. The body easily manages this if left to itself, but is greatly interfered with by the wrong suggestion and emotion. We have already seen how quickly emotion affects all secretions and how easily the adrenal and thyroid glands are influenced by fear. This is the root of the trouble in many cases of difficult “change.” If an occasional body is not quite able to regulate the chemical readjustment, we may have to administer the glands of some other animal, but in the majority of cases, the body, unhampered by an extra burden of fear, is quite able to make its own adjustments. The hot flash passes in a moment, if not prolonged by emotion or if not converted into a habit by attention.
One source of trouble in the menopause is that it comes at a time in a woman’s life when she is likely to have too much leisure. In no way can a woman so easily handicap her body at this time as by stopping work and being afraid. Those women who have to go on as usual find themselves past the change almost before they know it,—unless they consider themselves abused, and worry over the necessity for working through such a “critical time.”