Hormone replacement therapy or HRT contains medications used to replace depleted levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone after menopause. It helps women experiencing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal atrophy, and mood swings find relief. HRT has also been proven to prevent bone loss and fractures in postmenopausal women.
The question of how do I know if HRT is right for me depends on your particular symptoms and health history. Along with the benefits, there are some risks associated with hormone therapy. The risks depend on the dose, length of treatment, and type of hormone replacement therapy. Each person needs to evaluate the benefits and risks and make the best decision for their health.
The exact benefits range from person to person and will depend on the type of HRT and dose.
Systemic hormone therapy uses estrogen (can have progesterone too) in a pill, gel, skin patch, cream, or spray form. This is the most effective method for the relief of painful menopausal symptoms (night sweats and hot flashes). It can also provide assistance for vaginal discomforts, such as itching, dryness, and pain during intercourse.
The risks and benefits of HRT depend on a few factors. In a landmark trial called the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and sponsored by the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute studied 27,347 U.S. women (50-79) for five years. 80% of the women volunteered to continue study contributions towards the study afterward. Some risks associated with HRT include:
Important to keep in mind that the risks depend on age, hormone therapy method, length of treatment, hysterectomy status, and other health factors. For women 50-59, the study showed that the risks are much lower than for older women in their 70s. Bottom line, if the hormone therapy begins before the age of 60 or within 10 years of menopause, the benefits outweigh the risks. For further questions about risk, speak to your healthcare professional.
If you’re experiencing painful menopausal symptoms, stopped having your periods before age 40, want to increase fertility, or have severe bone loss, you may want to consider hormone therapy.
The best way to reduce HRT risk is to find the best product and delivery method for you. Hormone therapy in a cream at a low dose might be what’s needed to help relieve painful menopausal symptoms. You can also make better lifestyle choices by choosing a healthier diet, drinking more water, and engaging in regular exercise.
In the end, HRT isn't all good or all bad. The results and outcomes depend on each person, but fortunately, hormone therapy is available and under the guidance of your doctor, may improve the quality of your life.
Female Sex Hormones: Types, Effect on Arousal, and 8 Other Functions. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/female-sex-hormones
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). (2018, December 04). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2019, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/mht-fact-sheet
Women's Health Initiative (WHI). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/science/womens-health-initiative-whi
Women's Health Initiative reaffirms use of short-term hormone replacement therapy for younger women. (2015, August 06). Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/womens-health-initiative-reaffirms-use-short-term-hormone-replacement-therapy-younger-women