Hormone Replacement During Menopause: Yes or No?
Should I be on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause? It’s a question millions of women ask their doctors, their friends and themselves when menopausal symptoms are raging.
The answer used to be a resounding ‘Yes!’ Since menopause causes a hormonal imbalance, doctors routinely prescribed pharmaceutical hormones to treat severe symptoms. Hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, low libido, and vaginal dryness – among the most common (and annoying). The typical HRT ‘cocktail’ was estrogen and progesterone (progestin), along with testosterone, if needed.
For decades, HRT was routinely prescribed to women going through menopause naturally, and also to women whose ovaries were surgically removed. The latter is known as ‘surgical menopause’.
So, What Changed?
In the early 2000s, the world of HRT was turned upside down. That’s when a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative, analyzing the presumed benefits of HRT, was stopped abruptly. Early results showed HRT (estrogen and progestin) was linked to an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer in some women.
Many years and many studies later, much more is known about HRT’s benefits and risks. Today, researchers suggest taking hormones for a shorter period of time, at a lower dose specific to menopausal symptoms, and under a doctor’s regular care.
Natural HRT: BHRT
As a result of the Women’s Health Initiative study, the demand for a more natural and personalized approach to balancing hormones surged. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, known as BHRT, is a natural version of HRT. Like its synthetic counterpart, BHRT serves to ease or eliminate hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and vaginal dryness. A BHRT prescription can be customized for each patient’s needs.
BHRT is available through doctors in most parts of the U.S. and world. Since it has not been widely available as long as HRT, there are fewer studies on the risks and benefits. That’s why it’s important to have a candid discussion with your doctor about all of your symptoms and the different hormone replacement options available to you.
Is HRT/BHRT Right for Me?
Fortunately, we no longer live in a world of ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to our hormones. Talking to your doctor or hormone specialist about HRT/BHRT options and your symptoms will allow you to make the best decision possible.
If you are on hormone replacement, many doctors are now more diligently monitoring their patients’ hormone levels with proper and comprehensive testing. This allows you and your doctor to decide if the dose is correct or needs to be adjusted.
For some women, menopause is a breeze, for others, it’s more like a typhoon – but it doesn’t have to be any longer! Find the solution that’s right for you.