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Critical review of complementary and alternative medicine use in menopause: focus on prevalence, motivation, decision-making, and communication

Peng, Wenbo MMed; Adams, Jon PhD; Sibbritt, David W. PhD; Frawley, Jane E. MClinSci

doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e3182a46a3e
Review Article

Objective: This study aims to undertake the first critical review of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among menopausal women (a term here used to include premenopausal, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women) by focusing on the prevalence of CAM use and CAM users’ characteristics, motivation, decision-making, and communication with healthcare providers.

Methods: A comprehensive search of 2002-2012 international literature in the Medline, CINAHL, AMED, and SCOPUS databases was conducted. The search was confined to peer-reviewed articles published in English with abstracts and reporting new empirical research findings regarding CAM use and menopause.

Results: A considerable level of CAM use was observed among women in menopause. Many menopausal women use CAM concurrently with their conventional medicine. However, communication regarding CAM between menopausal women and healthcare providers seems less than optimal, with a demand for further information on the safety and efficacy of medicines. Existing literature is of variable methodological rigor, often presenting small sample sizes and low-quality data collection. Further rigorous research on this topic—including quantitative and qualitative methods using large national samples, where relevant—is required.

Conclusions: The findings of this critical review provide insights for those practicing and managing health care in this area of women’s health. Healthcare providers should prepare to inform menopausal women about all treatment options, including CAM, and should be aware of the possible adverse effects of CAM and potential interactions between CAM and conventional medicine among women in menopause who are under their care.

Author Information

From the Australian Research Center in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Received May 6, 2013; revised and accepted July 10, 2013.

Funding/support: None.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Jon Adams, PhD, Australian Research Center in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Level 7, Building 10, 235-253 Jones Street, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia. E-mail:

© 2014 by The North American Menopause Society.