Menopause occurs when a woman's reproductive hormones naturally decline, and she no longer menstruates, which may result in undesirable or uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, hormone replacement treatment has been clinically proven to help decrease these symptoms, allowing you to navigate menopause with ease.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medical treatment given to women to replace the declining estrogen and progesterone levels common with the onset of menopause. The therapy is used to help alleviate bothersome menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Signs You May Benefit from Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopause is a normal transition in a woman’s life, and every woman will have her own unique experience. While one woman may notice her periods stop with minimal physical changes, another may experience prolonged symptoms that are uncomfortable.
When your menopause symptoms start to impact on your mental and physical health, making everyday life and tasks difficult or distressing, hormone replacement therapy may be an option.
Signs you may benefit from hormone replacement therapy include:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Low sex-drive
- Painful sex
- Sleeping problems
- Extreme mood changes and irritability
Has your period become more sporadic? Are you experiencing the above symptoms? Learn more about the signs of perimenopause here.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Estrogen-only hormone therapy and combination hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) are the two main types of hormone replacement therapy. If you still have your uterus, your doctor will suggest combination therapy because progesterone reduces your risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer.
If you have had a hysterectomy and no longer have a uterus, you typically will not need progesterone. This is important to know because taking estrogen alone has been shown to have fewer long-term risks compared to combination hormone therapy.
There are two ways a woman can receive hormone replacement therapy — systemically or locally:
- Systemic hormone therapy is mainly taken in a pill, injection, or patch. It works by releasing hormones into the bloodstream and reaching the organs and tissues that need them. This type of therapy can help systemic symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes.
- Local hormone therapy is a cream, ring, or suppository used on a localized area and doesn't get into the bloodstream. It's mainly used to help women suffering from vaginal dryness due to the loss of estrogen by rebuilding the vaginal lining and promoting lubrication. Fewer risks are associated with localized hormone therapy, but it does not help prevent or alleviate systemic symptoms like hot flashes.
Click here to get a closer look at the main hormones within a woman’s body and their important roles.
What is Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Unlike traditional hormone therapy, which uses lab-created synthetic hormones, natural hormone therapy, also known as bioidentical hormone therapy, uses plant-derived hormones. These hormones are then altered in a lab to have the same molecular structure as the hormones your body used to produce before menopause.
The decision to go on hormone therapy and which type, traditional or natural, is a personal one and should be made after talking to your health care provider. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to talk with a knowledgeable provider about your options.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Benefits
Hormone replacement therapy can be very beneficial and plays an important role in managing menopause symptoms during the menopause transition.
Hormone replacement therapy may help alleviate the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Reduced sex drive
Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone therapy is a viable option for relatively young and healthy women — up to age 59 or within ten years of menopause. Although, there are risks involved. It's critical to talk to your doctor about these risks before starting therapy.
The following risks are associated with HRT:
- Blood clots in the legs and lungs (similar to the risks associated with taking hormonal birth control) that could result in a stroke.
- Endometrial cancer if you are taking estrogen-only replacement therapy and you still have your uterus.
- Breast cancer if you are taking estrogen and progesterone combination therapy for five or more years. This risk decreases after hormone therapy is stopped and is not associated with estrogen-only therapy.
You are less likely to experience any issues if you follow these suggestions:
- Start treatment with the lowest dose that works for you for the shortest possible time.
- Have your doctor closely monitor your treatment and address any concerns you are having.
- Take progesterone and estrogen if you still have your uterus.
- Stay up-to-date with your doctor visits, mammograms, and pelvic exams.
- Stick to localized estrogen therapy if the only troublesome symptom you’re experiencing is vaginal dryness or painful sex.
Talking to Your Doctor About Hormone Replacement Therapy
Talking to your doctor and discussing the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy can help you understand your options and what’s best for you and your health.
It's important to tell your Moreland OB-GYN provider everything you know about your medical history. Let them know if you have a history of blood clots, high blood pressure, cancer, and if you are a current or former smoker. Keeping a close track of all your menopause symptoms can also help your doctor decide the best treatment course.
Once you start hormone replacement therapy, it's essential you follow up with your doctor to discuss any symptoms or side effects you experience. If you decide hormone therapy is not the best option for you, your doctor can discuss natural ways to help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Stress management through relaxation and meditation
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Avoiding alcohol
- Developing a relaxing bedtime routine and sleep schedule
Moreland OB-GYN is proud to have Menopause Practitioners certified by the North American Menopause Society on staff. All of our providers are dedicated to helping women through this stage of their life by providing in-depth knowledge of the treatments available.
Our team of caring providers will take the time to listen and answer any questions you have about hormone replacement therapy. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and start your journey towards a happier, healthier life during and after menopause.