Graduate School of Nursing
Dissertations, UMMS; Menopause; Postmenopause; Estrogen Replacement Therapy; Quality of Life
Although many women find relief from menopause through hormone therapy (HT), current guidelines recommend that HT be used only for short-term relief of symptoms. Women who attempt to stop HT often encounter troublesome recurrent symptoms leading to a diminished quality of life (QoL); 25% of women who discontinue eventually resume HT. Unfortunately, there is little information for women and their health care providers as to the best way to discontinue HT or how to prepare and guide women through this process. An in-depth description of women‘s experiences during HT discontinuation and the factors influencing recurrent symptoms, QoL and discontinuation outcome would provide knowledge to develop much needed counseling and support interventions. The purpose of this study was to explore women‘s experiences discontinuing hormone therapy for menopause.
This Internet-based mixed-methods study used a dominant Qualitative Descriptive design with embedded quantitative QoL measurements. Participants completed the quantitative questionnaires online while open-ended questions were completed either online or by telephone. Interview data were analyzed through Qualitative Content Analysis; descriptive statistics were used to explore the quantitative measures. Participants were stratified by discontinuation status for comparison of variations in discontinuation experiences, QoL and influencing factors.
Thirty-four women (20 stopped, 9 resumed, 4 tapering) were enrolled. One overarching theme--'a solitary journey'--emerged: although all women embarked on this journey, each woman traveled her own path. Two subthemes--'burden and interference' and 'appraising risk'--encompassed the symptom factors (severity, interference and sensitivity) that influenced women's experiences and the manner in which women evaluated their options. Other influencing factors included: readiness viii and reasons for stopping HT, beliefs about menopause and roles. QoL was strongly connected to symptoms for many but not all women. Information from health care providers was inconsistent; women desired more support from providers and other women.
The rich description of women's experiences stopping HT highlights the need for providers to assess women's sensitivity to symptoms and readiness to discontinue to determine which women might benefit from more support. Greater health literacy would enhance women's understanding of HT risks. More research is needed on symptom clusters and interference and strategies for minimizing their impact.
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Fischer, MA. Women’s Experiences of Discontinuing Hormone Therapy: A Dissertation. (2011). University of Massachusetts Medical School. Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations. Paper 23. https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/gsn_diss/23