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Women's health during mid-life survey: the use of complementary and alternative medicine by symptomatic women transitioning through menopause in Sydney

van der Sluijs, Corinne Patching Dip Ed, BSc, BHlth Sc1; Bensoussan, Alan PhD1; Liyanage, Liwan PhD1; Shah, Smita MBChB, MCH2

doi: 10.1097/01.gme.0000236937.36078.f4

Objective: To survey the extent of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among women for the alleviation of menopausal symptoms.

Design: A total of 1,296 eligible women aged 45 to 65 years were recruited from three Sydney menopause clinics, general practice clinics, and government agencies between July 2003 and July 2004. Volunteers were invited to complete a 19-item questionnaire covering basic demographics, general health status, use of CAM therapies and products, use of pharmaceuticals, and sources of CAM advice.

Results: Of respondents, 53.8% had visited a CAM practitioner and/or used a CAM product during the past year, with 34% using a product only and 5% consulting a practitioner only. The most commonly visited practitioners were naturopaths (7.2%) and acupuncturists (4.8%), whereas the most popular products were soy (25.4%) and evening primrose oil (18.4%). Massage, chiropractic, and nutrition were rated the most effective therapies, and phytoestrogen tablets, evening primrose oil, and black cohosh were deemed the most effective products. Of the 59.9% of respondents currently using prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, 62.5% reported using CAM products during the past 12 months. Of CAM users 71% had informed their doctor about CAM use, whereas 26.4% of respondents reported their doctor had inquired about CAM use.

Conclusions: CAM use by women to alleviate menopausal symptoms is common, with several therapies perceived to be effective. Although a significant proportion of women may use CAM in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, relevant communication between medical practitioners and patients remains inadequate and may expose the patient to potential drug-herb interactions.

This Australian study provides insight into the continuing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among women transitioning through menopause. A significant number of the women are using CAM in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, therefore, communication between doctors and CAM consuming patients needs to be encouraged in order to minimize the potential for drug-herb interactions.

©2007The North American Menopause Society