, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 619-622
Date: 26 Feb 2008

Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause: A Qualitative Analysis of Women’s Decision Making

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Abstract

Background

While almost half of women use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) during their menopause, almost no literature explores why women choose CAM for menopausal symptoms. Clinician–patient conversations about CAM can be unsatisfactory, and exploration of women’s choices may benefit communication.

Objective

The objective of this study was to describe women’s choices to use CAM for menopausal health issues.

Design

This is a qualitative study utilizing semi-structured interviews.

Participants

Convenience sample of 44 menopausal women ages 45 to 60 recruited in two primary care clinics. Both users and non-users of CAM were included.

Approach

Transcripts of semi-structured interviews were analyzed for themes that were refined through comparison of labeled text.

Main results

Four themes emerged in decisions to use CAM: (1) valuing CAM as “natural”, although the meaning of “natural” varied greatly, (2) perceiving menopause as marking a change in life stage, (3) seeking information about menopause generated from personal intuition and other women’s experiences, and (4) describing experiences before menopause of using CAM and allopathic medication in patterns similar to current use (patterned responses).

Conclusion

Women’s decisions about using CAM during menopause can be understood through their perspectives on menopause and overall health. Increased clinician awareness of these themes may promote supportive discussions about CAM during counseling for menopause.

Parts of this paper were presented at American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting (New Orleans, 11/21/02) and North America Primary Care Research Group Annual Meeting (Banff, Canada 10/28/03).