Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medication used to replace estrogen that your body stops producing in menopause. Due to changing hormone levels, women commonly experience a variety of symptoms during menopause. Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, chills, mood changes, and difficulty sleeping. For some women these symptoms are mild, but for others, these symptoms really interfere with life.
Hormone replacement therapy can be a helpful way to relieve menopause symptoms and may also protect against osteoporosis. That said, there are some drawbacks to this treatment, and some cases where it may not be a good fit.
Estrogen Therapy vs. Combination Therapy
Estrogen therapy is one type of hormone replacement therapy. Given in a low dose, estrogen therapy is available as a pill, a patch that’s placed on the abdomen, and as a topical gel, cream, or spray. If someone is suffering from vaginal burning, dryness, or itchiness, their provider may prescribe a vaginal estrogen that’s available as a tablet, vaginal ring, or cream.
Another option for hormone replacement therapy is typically called combination therapy. Like its name suggests, this medication combines estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone. Combination therapy is frequently used as a type of birth control, but can also treat menopause symptoms.
Is It Right For You?
For healthy women within 10 years of their last menstrual period, the risks are minimal. Hormone replacement therapy isn’t advised if you have a history or family history of liver disease, blood clots, certain types of cancers, heart attack or stroke. It’s also not recommended if you have problems with vaginal bleeding or think you may be pregnant.
For healthy women within 10 years of their last menstrual period, the benefits can be significant. Hot flashes and night sweats typically disappear. Additionally, there may be improvement in sleep, skin, sex life, and cholesterol. Lower risk of osteoporosis is also an added benefit.
Hormone replacement therapy comes with some risks, though these often vary depending on a woman’s lifestyle and medical history. Additionally, the level of risk varies depending on the type of medication taken. It is believed that hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of heart attacks, blood clots, strokes, breast cancer, and gallbladder disease in some women.
Another factor is that the risks of hormone replacement therapy are higher among women over the age of 60. Furthermore, among women who start hormone replacement therapy more than 10 years after the onset of menopause.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.