Why women choose compounded bioidentical hormone therapy: Lessons from a qualitative study of menopausal decision-making

Jennifer Jo Thompson, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Mark Nichter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: In recent years, compounded bioidentical hormone therapy (CBHT) has emerged as a popular alternative to manufactured, FDA approved hormone therapy (HT)-despite concerns within the medical community and the availability of new FDA approved "bioidentical" products. This study aims to characterize the motivations for using CBHT in a U.S. sample of ordinary midlife women. Methods: We analyze data collected from 21 current and former users of CBHT who participated in a larger qualitative study of menopausal decision-making among U.S. women. Interviews and focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically using an iterative inductive and deductive process. Results: Although women's individual motivations varied, two overarching themes emerged: "push motivations" that drove women away from conventional HT and from alternative therapies, and "pull motivations" that attracted women to CBHT. Push motivations focused on (1) fear and uncertainty about the safety of conventional HT, (2) an aversion to conjugated estrogens in particular, and (3) and overarching distrust of a medical system perceived as dismissive of their concerns and overly reliant on pharmaceuticals. Participants also voiced dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of herbal and soy supplements. Participants were attracted to CBHT because they perceive it to be (1) effective in managing menopausal symptoms, (2) safer than conventional HT, (3) tailored to their individual bodies and needs, and (4) accompanied by enhanced clinical care and attention. Conclusions: This study finds that women draw upon a range of "push" and "pull" motivations in their decision to use CBHT. Importantly, we find that women are not only seeking alternatives to conventional pharmaceuticals, but alternatives to conventional care where their menopausal experience is solicited, their treatment goals are heard, and they are engaged as agents in managing their own menopause. The significance of this finding goes beyond understanding why women choose CBHT. Women making menopause treatment decisions of all kinds would benefit from greater shared decision-making in the clinical context in which they are explicitly invited to share their experiences, priorities, and preferences. This would also provide an opportunity for clinicians to discuss the pros and cons of conventional HT, CBHT, and other approaches to managing menopause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number97
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017


  • Bioidentical hormones
  • Compounded hormones
  • Hormone therapy
  • Menopause
  • Qualitative research
  • Shared decision-making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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