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Open Access Research article

The use of complementary and alternative medicine by women experiencing menopausal symptoms in Bologna

Francesco Cardini1*, Grazia Lesi2, Flavia Lombardo3, Corinne van der Sluijs4 and MSCG - Menopause Survey Collaborative Group2

Author Affiliations

1 Health and Social Agency of Emilia Romagna Region, Bologna, Italy

2 Bologna Local Health Unit, Bologna, Italy

3 CNESPS - National Center for Epidemiology, Health Surveillance and Promotion; Italian National Health Institute, Rome, Italy

4 CompleMED, Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, University of Western Sydney, Australia

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BMC Women's Health 2010, 10:7  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-10-7

Published: 27 February 2010

Abstract

Background

The present study describes Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use amongst Italian women transitioning through menopause. Popularity and perceived effectiveness of CAM treatments, use of pharmaceutical medications, characteristics of CAM users, the extent of communication between medical practitioners and women about their use of CAM, and variables associated with CAM use were also investigated.

Methods

Women, aged 45-65 years attending Family Planning and Women's Health clinics or Menopause Centres in Bologna were invited to complete a voluntary, anonymous, self administered questionnaire, which was used in a previous study in Sydney. The questionnaire was translated and adapted for use amongst Italian women. Data on general demographic and health characteristics, menopause related symptoms and the use of CAM and pharmaceutical treatments during the previous 12 months were collected.

Results

In total, 1,203 women completed the survey, of which 1,106 were included in the final sample. Of women who had symptoms linked with menopause and/or used remedies to alleviate symptoms, 33.5% reported to have used CAM. Among these, 23.5% had consulted one or more practitioners and 24% had used at least one CAM product.

Approximately nine out of ten respondents reported medical practitioners did not seek information about their use of CAM; while one third of CAM users did not disclose the use of CAM to their physician. Nevertheless, medical practitioners were the most popular source of information. From the multivariate analysis, variables associated with CAM use were: professional employment, time since the last natural menses, use of CAM for conditions other than menopause, and presence of some severe symptoms.

Conclusions

The relatively high prevalence of CAM use by women transitioning through menopause should encourage research initiatives into determining which CAM treatments are the safest and effective. The increasing and likely concomitant use of CAM with HRT and other pharmaceuticals underlines the need for the implementation of a surveillance system to report and monitor possible drug-herb adverse events. The discrepancy between women preferring to seek information about CAM from their medical doctor and the difficulties noted in communication between doctor and patient should encourage educational initiatives on CAM by health-care agencies and institutions.