Complementary medicines and alternative therapies for early menopause: Health Practitioners’ perspectives

The health practitioners we interviewed often saw women interested in trying complementary medicines and alternative therapies in relation to early menopause (EM), in particular for symptoms (e.g. hot flushes, night sweats, psychological symptoms), and fertility. Complementary medicines and alternative therapies for EM symptoms include naturopathy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (including acupuncture), bioidenticals compounded hormones, herbal and botanical remedies, and meditation and relaxation therapies such as massage.

Health practitioners emphasised that while the evidence on the benefits of complementary medicines and alternative therapies for EM symptoms is inconclusive, it is important to listen to patients, explain the different options to assist decision-making, and remain non-judgemental. As Dr Goeltom, a general practitioner, said: ‘I try to explain to them what it is, and then I’ll help them, if they want me, to make a decision…it is an honour to be involved in decision-making in somebody’s life…you need to have a good rapport, for you to be able to help them’.

Endocrinologist Dr W shared her thoughts on discussing complementary medicines and alternative therapies with her patients.

Dr Ee, an integrative general practitioner, explained how she helps her patients in decision-making about complementary medicines and alternative therapies.

If women are interested in trying complementary medicines and alternative therapies, some health practitioners noted that these should be used alongside pharmacological therapies, for example Hormone Replacement Therapy (see Hormone-based medications for early menopause), which is the most effective treatment for hot flushes, and is important to protect against long-term impacts of EM, such as the loss of bone density (see Long-term health effects of early menopause).

Dr Baber, an obstetrician-gynaecologist, explained that it is important to make sure that women diagnosed with spontaneous EM have hormone replacement.

For hot flushes in particular, some health practitioners commented that they sometimes refer women to acupuncturists. Breast surgeon Dr Baker said: ‘I’ve had quite a lot of patients who’ve had a good response with acupuncture for their hot flushes and I have a medical acupuncturist, so a GP with an acupuncture qualification’.

However, Dr S, a medical oncologist, explained that in her experience, ‘acupuncture [does not do] anything for patients. I actually think that many patients benefit from sympathetic conversations and empathy about what they are going through and knowing they can come and talk to us about this’.

Dr Barker, a general practitioner based in a regional town, described practicing acupuncture on his patients. 

A few health practitioners observed that women who have been diagnosed with spontaneous EM and are trying to conceive a child sometimes want to try complementary medicines and alternative therapies, for example naturopathy, in hope this may assist their fertility treatments (see Fertility and early menopause).

Fertility specialist Dr K emphasised that it is important not to give women diagnosed with spontaneous EM ‘false hope’.

Complementary medicines and alternative therapies and cancer treatment

Several health practitioners discussed the use of complementary medicines and alternative therapies for women diagnosed with EM as a result of cancer treatment (see Non-hormone based medications for early menopause symptoms after oestrogen-sensitive cancers). Endocrinologist Dr W noted, ‘you have to be a bit careful with certain cancers … [for] breast cancer you’d still be a bit reluctant perhaps to use some of the herbal therapies because you don’t really know what their effects might be’.

For Ms Lewis, a breast surgeon, it is important to remind women that some complementary medicines and alternative therapies can interfere with their cancer treatment.

Dr Baker, a breast surgeon, noted that after cancer treatment women diagnosed with EM, often want to take fewer pharmacological medications and may seek complementary medicines and alternative therapies.

Further information

Talking Points (Health Practitioners)

Talking Points (Women)

Other resources