News Briefs

Information-gathering ongoing for women with menopausal symptoms

A recent study shows that women who sought information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) options for managing menopausal symptoms did so on an ongoing basis.

Researchers in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, wanted to examine how menopausal women gather, evaluate, and use information on CAM options. The researchers used in-depth, semi-structured interviews to evaluate 22 women with a mean age of 52 years (ranging from 42 to 58 years), and then they interpreted the data with category coding and thematic analysis.

Four major themes emerged: how women gathered information, how they evaluated the information, how they used the information, and the challenges they experienced in making informed decisions. Information-gathering was an ongoing process, the researchers say. As women's symptoms changed, their information needs changed, too. The participants' preferred sources of information included physicians, CAM practitioners, staff at health food stores, and personal contacts.

The women, who were highly educated, sought information on the process of menopause, as well as about both CAM and conventional treatments. Most of them "systematically evaluated information from many sources using such criteria as whether information was biased, where the information came from, and whether the information was current. Information was used to validate their symptoms and to choose treatment based on cost-benefit analysis, risk-benefit analysis, and possible negative side effects or interactions between medications," the researchers say.

The women thought that finding reliable information was a challenge because of structural or information-related barriers. Some participants also cited a lack of time as a problem. They felt pressure to search for and evaluate information, but they also wanted rapid relief from the symptoms of menopause.

Women who are, or will, experience menopause need reliable information in an accessible format about the transition and the risks and benefits of CAM options, the researchers conclude. "As a trusted source, family physicians have a role in disseminating this information." For more information, see the January issue of Canadian Family Physician.

Texas midwives recommend CAM modalities to clients

All of Texas midwives recently surveyed indicated that they had used, recommended, or referred their clients for at least one complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy during the preceding year, according to the September/October issue of The Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health.

This cross-sectional survey sought to document CAM use by the midwives, as well as to determine whether licensed direct-entry midwives (LMs) and certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) differed significantly in their patterns of use. Ninety percent (90%) of the 69 respondents used, recommended, or referred their clients for an herbal remedy (not including homeopathic tinctures).

Herbal therapies were among the top three modalities recommended for seven of 12 (58%) clinical indications. Herbs were the most salient CAM therapy used for cervical ripening (83%), followed closely by use for nausea, vomiting, hyperemesis (80%), and labor induction (77%). Herbal therapies also constituted 50% or more of the CAM therapies used for the following indications: anemia/iron supplementation (70%), perineal healing (66%), and anxiety/stress/fatigue (50%).

LM respondents used, recommended, or referred their clients for a greater number of herbal therapies compared to CNMs. While several of the CAM modalities used or recommended by Texas midwives show potential for clinical benefit, the researchers concluded that few have been studied sufficiently to determine their efficacy or safety during pregnancy.

Meeting on status and future of acupuncture held in November

The Society for Acupuncture Research is holding its annual conference in Baltimore, MD, on Nov. 8-11. The title of this year's meeting is "The Status and Future of Acupuncture Research: 10 Years Post-NIH Consensus Conference.

The meeting is being held to review scientific progress in acupuncture research during the past decade and examine opportunities and challenges for future studies. In November 1997, a report by a consensus panel convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that there is clear evidence of acupuncture efficacy for postoperative- and chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, for nausea of pregnancy, and for postoperative dental pain, the society says. The NIH panel also cited other conditions for which acupuncture may be effective as a stand alone or an adjunct therapy, but for which there is less convincing scientific data.

Three pre-conference workshops are being offered Nov. 8, as well as pre-conference satellite symposium. For registration and other information, see