Women's perceptions and beliefs about the use of complementary and alternative medicines during menopause

Sara Gollschewski, Simon Kitto, Debra Anderson, Philippa Lyons-Wall
Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2008, 16 (3): 163-8

INTRODUCTION: Studies of menopausal women are providing increasing evidence of the reasons for complementary and alternative medications (CAM) use during menopause, the types of CAM used and the prevalence of use; however, further insight into the experiences of women using CAM during menopause is required. The aim of this study was to put CAM use during menopause into context by identifying and describing the factors that influence menopausal women in their decision to use CAM.

METHODS: Menopausal women participated in focus groups and telephone interviews and the following information were collected: symptoms experienced during menopause; therapies (other than hormones) used to cope with menopause, and the perceived benefits of these therapies, and how the women found out about these therapies. The data collected were analysed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Fifteen women participated in the study; 13 in the focus groups and two in telephone interviews. The women reported using a diverse range of therapies, supplements and activities. Empowerment was a central theme throughout the study. The level of support from the women's general practitioners was reported to be a major influence in their decision to take CAM. The availability of information about CAM and individual determinants, such as symptoms and perceptions of menopause, were also identified as significant influences.

CONCLUSION: The women in this study expressed a desire to have control over their symptoms and the way in which their menopause was treated. This study has highlighted a need for more information and education about menopause and, in particular, the range, safety and efficacy of CAM use during menopause. The study also shows there is a need for strong participatory relationships between women and their health professionals.

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