Hot flashes. Insomnia. Vaginal dryness. Incontinence. Are you looking for relief from these common menopause symptoms? During menopause, your estrogen levels fall. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—which is also known as estrogen replacement therapy, hormone therapy, or menopausal hormone therapy—is a very effective treatment for menopause symptoms. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of HRT can help you decide whether it’s the best solution for you.
Doctors usually suggest women who have had a hysterectomy, which removes the uterus, receives a low dose of estrogen. Estrogen comes in different forms, such as a ring, gel, or spray, but the daily pill and patch are the most popular.
- Estrogen pill— Pills are the most common treatment for menopausal symptoms. Most estrogen pills are taken once a day without food. There are also combination pills that include both estrogen and progestin.
- Estrogen patch— The patch is worn on the skin of your stomach. Depending on the dose, some patches are replaced every few days, while others can be worn for a week. Combination estrogen and progestin patches are also available. One patch, Menostar, has a lower dose of estrogen than other patches. It’s only used for reducing the risk of osteoporosis and doesn’t help with other menopause symptoms.
- Topical Estrogen – Creams, gels, and sprays are absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. The specifics on how to apply these creams vary, although they’re usually used once a day.
- Vaginal estrogen— Vaginal estrogen comes in a cream, vaginal ring, or vaginal estrogen tablets. Typically, these treatments are for women who are experiencing vaginal dryness, itchiness, and pain during sexual intercourse. Most vaginal rings need to be changed four times a year, or every three months. A doctor might recommend tablets to be used daily to twice a week. Vaginal estrogen creams might be used daily, several times a week, or less frequently.
Estrogen/Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy
Because it combines doses of estrogen and progestin, this hormone therapy is often called combination therapy. It’s best for women who still have their uterus because taking estrogen with progesterone lowers the risk for cancer of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. Progesterone can help treat many menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Progestin is the synthetic form of progesterone. Many doctors now treat most menopausal patients with natural progesterone, which is taken in a pill. Women with high cholesterol levels might benefit from natural progesterone.
When Shouldn’t I Take Hormone Replacement Therapy?
If you have experienced blood clots, cancer, heart disease, or a stroke, you may want to avoid HRT. If you have, talk to your doctor if HRT can still work for you or what alternatives are available for you.
What Are the Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy?
HRT can come with some uncomfortable side effects.
- Breast swelling or tenderness
- Mood changes
- Vaginal bleeding
If you’re curious whether hormone replacement therapy is right for you, contact Creekside Center to make an appointment: (479) 582-9268.
The North American Menopause Society: https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/hormone-therapy-benefits-risks