Treatment is on the mind of most women as they work through the symptoms associated with menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings can be disruptive, and most people just want relief. Hormone replacement therapy for women was once commonly used to treat the symptoms associated with menopause, but then there were reports that the treatment was causing significant health risks.
With conflicting information, it may be hard to distinguish whether or not hormone replacement therapy is a safe solution. Let’s take a better look at the facts.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women?
It’s essential to understand what hormone replacement is (and what it isn’t). Essentially, hormone replacement therapy is a medication that has female hormones in it. Because your body naturally loses estrogen during menopause, it is intended to replace those hormones and relieve common symptoms that women experience. Not only does it offer some relief for symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats, hormone replacement therapy has also been proven to prevent bone loss.
While there are benefits, it would be incorrect to assume that hormone replacement therapy is the perfect treatment for everybody. Some risks should be considered and are determined based on the type of hormone treatment, the dosage, and the specifics of a woman’s health. Because of the many factors, there is no blanketing determination of whether hormone replacement therapy is safe for every woman. Much of that determination comes down to details regarding the individual woman and her health.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women
Two primary types of hormone replacement therapy may be prescribed to women. The determination is generally based on the severity of your symptoms and other health and lifestyle factors.
Systemic Hormone Therapy
Systemic hormone therapy is a concentrated estrogen that can be absorbed by the body. This treatment can come in various forms, including pill, patch, gel, cream, spray, or ring. Generally, the woman’s lifestyle or preference is considered when determining the best systemic hormone therapy. It is used to treat the common symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness.
Low-Dose Vaginal Products
Low-dose vaginal products include a much lower level of estrogen than systemic hormone therapy options. This solution can come in the form of a pill, ring, or cream and generally only treats vaginal dryness or urinary issues associated with menopause.
Progesterone and Estrogen
Women who still have their uterus intact will have to be prescribed progesterone in addition to estrogen. This is because studies have found that estrogen administered by itself can cause growth on the lining of the uterus and thus increase the risks of certain cancers. In contrast, women who have had their uterus removed may not need the addition of progesterone.
As mentioned, hormone replacement therapy isn’t without risk. The largest clinical trial presented the findings that hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of:
- Breast cancer
- Blood clots
- Heart disease
However, those findings are often associated with other factors such as age, type of hormone therapy, and health history. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.
Age is one of the leading risk factors when it comes to determining if hormone replacement therapy is the right solution. Studies indicate that women over the age of 60 or ten years from the start of their menopause symptoms are at greater risk of the side effects mentioned. In contrast, women younger than 60 and within ten years of menopause appear to have benefits that outweigh the mentioned risks.
Type of Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women
The level of risk of hormone replacement therapy can come down to whether estrogen and progesterone are administered appropriately and the level of dosage given.
Your personal health history and the health history of your close relatives are significant when it comes to determining if hormone replacement therapy is a safe solution for you. For example, you may be at higher risk if you or your family members have previously experienced blood clots, stroke, heart disease, or cancer.
Are You a Good Candidate for Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women?
Specific health history and other factors will be the ultimate determination if hormone replacement therapy is safe for you. However, a few general guidelines are:
- Hormone replacement therapy may be a solution for you if you are in good health and experience intense hot flashes or night sweats, or other disruptive symptoms such as vaginal dryness or discomfort during intercourse.
- Systemic estrogen can help protect you from osteoporosis but is usually only administered if other non-hormone treatments aren’t tolerated.
- If you experience estrogen deficiency or premature menopause (menopause before the age of 40), then your body is exposed to more significant risks due to a lack of estrogen. Hormone replacement therapy may protect you against mood changes, dementia, heart disease, or stroke.
The short answer is that hormone replacement therapy may be safe for some women. Of course, the longer answer is that many factors will ultimately determine just how safe it is for you.
It’s important to discuss your options with your doctor, find solutions that minimize the amount of medication you take, and receive regular follow-up care to monitor your health. Making healthy lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can also go a long way in preserving your health.
If hormone therapy is not the right solution for you, other options are available, such as non-hormone medications to relieve hot flashes or lubricants to reduce vaginal dryness. Your doctor can help identify other solutions that may help relieve some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of menopause.
Learn More About Your Options
Nore Health is committed to ensuring that every woman clearly understands her health and options during menopause. For more information about hormone replacement therapy and learn if it is a right choice for you, please contact our office. Our knowledgeable staff is here to answer your questions and provide the guidance you need to make the most informed decisions regarding your health.