Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, as commonly referred is a medication containing the female hormone. During menopause, your body stops making estrogen, and hormone therapy help to cope with the symptoms at this stage. Therefore, this therapy is also called Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Estrogen Replacement Therapy.
HRT helps to treat menopause symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal discomfort. The decision to take the therapy depends upon several factors like age, medical history, the severity of symptoms, etc.
Consult your gynecologist to discuss HRT, its benefits, and the risks involved.
Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women
The transition into the menopause phase is not easy for women. The ovaries in your body no longer produce a higher level of progesterone and estrogen. Hormonal changes happening inside the body can be pretty uncomfortable. You can also take hormonal therapy in the form of tablets, creams or gels, vaginal rings, and skin patches.
Some of the common menopause symptoms that you may face are:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal discomfort
- Vaginal dryness
- Feeling a need to visit the washroom frequently
- Night sweats
- Cold flashes
- Mood swings and irritability
- Mild Depression
- Dry skin
Hormonal replacement therapy is recommended for women in their menopausal stage to get relief from challenging symptoms like itchy skin, vaginal discomforts, hot/cold flashes, etc .
Some of the other benefits of taking the HRT include:
- Improves overall mood and mental well-being
- It reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis
- Improvement in joint pain
- Lowers the risk for cancer, diabetes
- Lower death rate
Hormone Replacement Therapy Side Effects
HRT can be beneficial to many women and usually safe. However, it may have side effects which go away in a few weeks.
Some of the adverse effects are:
- Breast tenderness
- Swelling of body parts
- Leg Cramps
- Headaches and Migraines
- Pain in the back and abdominal
- Vaginal Bleeding
- Mood Swings and Irritation
- Skin Discoloration
- Fluid Retention
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are many types of HRT available. The dosage and type will depend upon your needs as there is no such thing as “one size fits for all.” Many factors like age, symptoms, medical history, period pattern, etc., are checked before finalizing which treatment is best for you.
Common types of HRT include:
Estrogen (only HRT)
This therapy is suggested when you have removed your uterus and ovaries. You are also not required to take progesterone medication which balances your estrogen levels.
Sequential or Cyclical HRT
This type of therapy is suitable if the symptoms occur before menopause. You will also be able to align the dose with your menstrual cycle. It is available in the form of pills, gels, and cream.
A combination of estrogen and progesterone medication has to be taken continuously, even after menopause.
This type of HRT is also recommended to help the vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause. It also comes in the form of creams, vaginal tablets, and rings. Moreover, this low-dose vaginal preparation helps minimize the amount of estrogen absorbed by your body.
Hormone Replacement Therapy and Weight Loss
Studies suggest that HRT treatment can also help women to reduce weight. The therapy increases the metabolic rate and allows you to control your body weight.
To avoid weight gain, you should follow a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and regular exercise during and after HRT.
Alternatives To Hormone Replacement Therapy
Several other options that can help manage your symptoms during menopause are: .
Changes in your lifestyle can help you to cope during menopause. Some of the changes that can help you to manage symptoms are:
- Regular physical activity, exercise
- Have a healthy and balanced diet
- Wear loose clothing and avoid tight and fitting clothes
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Avoid spicy food
- Avoid drinking and smoking during this phase
- Get up and sleep at the same time every day
- Practise stress-releasing activities like meditation, yoga
- Maintain your social circle. Share your experience with your friends
- Drinking ayurvedic Kada (Indian Kada) also helps ease menopause systems
This therapy is similar to HRT and helps with hot flashes and low mood symptoms. It is a prescribed medicine available in tablet form.
This medicine is suitable for females whose last period happened a year ago. Some of the minor side-effects of this medicine are abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, itching, and breast tenderness.
Bioidentical or Natural Hormones
Bioidentical hormones are a plant-based preparation. Few research studies show it to be similar to human hormones. Therefore, it is said as a natural and safer alternative to HRT. However, more study is required.
Many health soaps and herbal remedies such as angelica, ginseng, primrose oil, St John’s wort, and black cohosh are available to treat menopause symptoms.
Herbal remedies are natural extracts and are usually safe to consume. A lot more research is required to conclude its effectiveness level.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Risks
Hormone replacement therapy may not suit everyone. This therapy is not suitable for people with medical conditions or a history of :
- Hypertension or High BP
- Gallbladder disease
- Heart disease
- Blood clot problem
- Breast cancer
Research studies show that pregnant women or females who would like to conceive in the future should not take HRT. Also, there is a high risk of conditions like dementia, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer if consumed for the long term.
Always consult your gynecologist to check if HRT is suitable for you.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Safe?
HRT is a common therapy to tackle hormonal issues during menopause. It is usually safe for most women with minor side effects.
Research shows that HRT is safe up to 59 years of age, within 10 years of menopause, and females have low to severe hot flashes .
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a standard therapy to manage menopause in females. HRT helps with menopause symptoms like hot/cold flashes, vaginal discomfort, night sweat, etc.
Though it is usually safe however may not be suitable for people with specific medical conditions or history.
Check with your healthcare professional if it suits you, benefits, and risks.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- NHS website. (2021, November 18). Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). nhs.uk. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt/
- Menopause treatment | Office on Women’s Health. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-treatment
- Academic Committee of the Korean Society of Menopause, Lee, S. R., Cho, M. K., Cho, Y. J., Chun, S., Hong, S. H., Hwang, K. R., Jeon, G. H., Joo, J. K., Kim, S. K., Lee, D. O., Lee, D. Y., Lee, E. S., Song, J. Y., Yi, K. W., Yun, B. H., Shin, J. H., Chae, H. D., & Kim, T. (2020). The 2020 Menopausal Hormone Therapy Guidelines. Journal of menopausal medicine, 26(2), 69–98. https://doi.org/10.6118/jmm.20000