Estrogen and progesterone are the main hormones produced by a female’s reproductive system. While estrogen triggers the release of eggs from the ovaries, progesterone makes the uterus ready for egg implantation. When a woman’s reproductive years are over; or when she enters menopause, her body stops to produce estrogen and progesterone. This is when hormone replacement therapy (HRT) becomes important. To understand what HRT means, its benefits, risks, and who it is designed for, continue to read this article.
What does hormone replacement therapy mean?
The term hormone replacement therapy refers to drugs that consist of female reproductive hormones and are used to treat menopausal symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Urinary tract problems
- Vaginal dryness
- Thinning of hair
- Thinning of bones (osteoporosis)
- Sleep disturbance
- Memory issues and poor concentration
- Involuntary weight gain, especially in the tummy.
Different kinds of HRT
A number of hormone replacement therapy options are available and each type may vary from the other in terms of hormone combinations and delivery. To discover different types of HRT and learn how they work, feel free to check out this page. Meanwhile, here is what to expect:
This type contains only estrogen. It is designed for menopausal women who no longer have a womb (have undergone a hysterectomy to remove their uterus/womb). As they no longer have their womb and ovaries, these females do not require progesterone. Estrogen-only or systemic hormone therapy is the best treatment for night sweats, hot flashes and some vaginal signs of menopause.
2. Continuous HRT
This type of HRT contains both progesterone and estrogen. It is taken consistently after menopause. As it is a combined hormone therapy, continuous HRT can protect a woman against osteoporosis and colon cancer. Moreover, it can reduce their odds of developing heart disease if they start to take it immediately after menopause.
3. Low-dose vaginal HRT
This comes in the form of vaginal products such as rings, creams, and tablets. It is used to cure urinary tract problems, vaginal dryness, and vaginal irritation. As the name suggests, these products are slowly absorbed into the body.
Also known as cyclical HRT, sequential hormone replacement therapy is prescribed to ladies who are in their perimenopausal stage and are still having periods. Perimenopause may occur 3 to 10 years prior to menopause; so, most women experience it in their late 40s. If this type of HRT will be suitable for you, your doctor will prescribe the right dosage and when to take it during your cycle.
In what form do women take HRT?
Hormone replacement therapy is available as a:
- Vaginal ring
- Gel or cream
- Skin patch
One thing you should know is that a reputable doctor will first prescribe a low dose so as to study your body’s reaction. If the dosage treats your symptoms, your doctor might decide to increase it or leave it alone. Additionally, if you are totally healed, your doctor will reduce your dosage gradually rather than stop it abruptly.
Is hormone replacement therapy safe for everyone?
HRT is not safe for every woman who is perimenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal. So, tell your doctor about your past and current health status. If you have a history of or are currently suffering from the following health problems, inform your doctor:
- Serious migraines
- High blood pressure
- Blood clotting
- Heart disease
- Cancer of the ovaries, breast or endometrial lining
Note that younger women who are likely to get pregnant or are already expectant should avoid HRT.
What risks are associated with HRT?
The following factors apply when determining how risky hormone replacement therapy can be. These include:
- When a woman starts taking HRT. If she was put on therapy over ten or twenty years from when their menopause started (that is after turning 60 years old), she is likely to develop any of the aforementioned diseases. On the other hand, a woman who begins therapy before attaining the age of sixty years is likely to have more benefits than risks.
- Whether a therapy contains estrogen only or has progesterone too
- The type of estrogen and dosage
- If a patient is healthy or suffering from serious diseases like stroke, heart disease or cancer.
Furthermore, hormone replacement therapy is thought to increase a woman’s weight. However, research has demonstrated that weight gain around menopause is not necessarily caused by HRT. Weight gain could easily be caused by less activity due to discomfort caused by menopause or an increase in appetite triggered by estrogen decline.
Women who naturally start menopause after the age of forty-five years and are not affected by its symptoms can do without HRT. Their doctors can offer proper advice to them on how to prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, and other health issues. Conversely, any woman who is experiencing perimenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal discomfort should talk to their doctor about the possibility of starting their HRT.