Menopause arrives in the scene of a woman’s life with some great party gifts – (yay, no more periods!) and some pretty annoying side effects (why am I so grouchy?). Unlike our great-grandmothers, women today have the opportunity to use bioidentical hormone therapy to ward off some of the downsides of menopause and feel like themselves again, so they can fully enjoy the freedom that menopause brings.
How bioidentical hormone therapy helps with menopause
The many unpleasant side effects of menopause and perimenopause are caused by decreasing levels of hormones in the body, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones are necessary for fertility, but no longer needed in such quantities once the fertile stage of a woman’s life is over. Unfortunately, fertility is not the only realm of responsibility for these hormones. They also help regulate things like sexual drive, skin elasticity, sleep cycles, and more. So when the hormones levels drop during perimenopause and menopause, those things can go a little haywire, too.
Bioidentical hormone therapy replaces the hormones the body is missing with ones that are chemically identical to the ones produced naturally in the body. By supplementing a woman’s decreased hormone level with bioidentical hormones, many of those troublesome menopausal symptoms caused by imbalanced hormones suddenly disappear, providing dramatic relief quickly to women struggling with the “change of life.”
When many people hear the word “menopause,” the first thing they think about is likely to be all the frustrating, uncomfortable symptoms of the associated with it, such as:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Memory issues
- Pain during intercourse
- Dry skin
Not a fun list, for sure. But there is hope. Bioidentical hormone therapy brings hormone levels back to normal levels to help alleviate these troublesome symptoms of menopause.
Benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
Bioidentical hormone therapy can help women who are looking for natural menopause relief feel better and more like themselves by supplementing their now-low hormones levels. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help to:
- Improve sexual drive
- Relieve anxiety and depression caused by hormonal imbalances
- Stabilize moods
- Increase mental clarity
- Improve focus and memory
- Maintain bone health and strength
- Build muscle mass
The difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormones
Many women turn to bioidentical hormones because they don’t like the idea of putting synthetic hormones into their bodies long term. But is there really a difference?
Conventional hormone replacement therapy involves taking synthetic, lab-created hormones to replace the missing hormones in the body and to correct hormonal imbalances. Conventional hormone therapy is generally referred to as HRT. Hormones used in traditional HRT are derived from the urine of female horses and other synthetic, man-made hormones.
Bioidentical hormone therapy uses hormones that are chemically identical to the ones produced naturally in the human body. They are derived from plant sources like soybeans or yams.
Proponents of bioidentical hormone therapy claim that is may be a safer alternative to conventional HRT, but more studies need to be done to back up these claims. As of today, the research suggests that conventional HRT and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy carry the same risks and benefits.
Many prescription forms of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy are approved by the FDA. The FDA puts their stamp of approval on a therapy after testing it for purity, safety and consistent dosage through numerous clinical trials.
Compounded bioidentical hormone therapies – those that are specially compounded in a pharmacy in a tailor-made formulation for a specific client – are not approved by the FDA. This does not mean that compounded bioidentical hormone replacement formulas are unsafe. It just means that, since each formulation is unique to each patient, the FDA is not able to test every formulation, and therefore cannot approve them.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy side effects
As with all aspects of medicine, nearly every treatment has possible side effects, including bioidentical hormone therapy. In the same way that your body is feeling the strange effects of having your hormone levels jump, dip and fall during perimenopause and menopause, you’ll have to get accustomed to having regular hormone levels again, too. So side effects of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy are most common when treatment starts and gradually ease off as your body becomes accustomed to the treatment.
Side effects for bioidentical hormone therapy include:
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
- Digestive issues
Risks of bioidentical hormone therapy
There are some risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, both bioidentical and conventional HRT. Women who take hormones are more at risk for blood clots, stroke, gallbladder disease, heart disease and breast cancer.
How is my dosage for bioidentical hormone therapy determined?
Hormone therapy is best done at the lowest dosage possible for the shortest duration of time to achieve the desired results. Our providers develop custom programs specific to the needs of each patient.
How are bioidentical hormones given?
Your doctor will prescribe your bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in whatever form fits your symptoms and lifestyle the best. Luckily, there are many forms available to you. Options include pills, creams, gels, patches, shots, and implanted hormone pellets.
What is hormone pellet therapy?
Many women find that the convenience of hormone pellet therapy best fits their lifestyle, as they don’t have to remember to take a pill or apply a cream every day.
With hormone pellet therapy, a tiny pellet of hormones is inserted underneath your skin in the hip or abdominal area. This quick and simple procedure takes place in your doctor’s office under local anesthesia. There is no downtime, but you may experience light bruising at the insertion site. You will also want to avoid water sports, hot tubs and baths for several days after your pellet is inserted. Once inserted, the pellet releases a steady stream of hormones into your body.
Many women prefer hormone pellet therapy to oral and topical applications of hormone replacement therapy because:
- Their hormone levels stay consistent.
- They don’t have the hassle of remembering to take a pill or apply a cream every day.
- The hormones are delivered directly into the bloodstream and not metabolized in the liver.
- They only have to think about once every three months, when the pellet needs to be replaced, instead of taking a daily dose and running to pick up a new prescription at the pharmacy every month.
Hormone replacement therapy is not right for everyone. Because of the risks associated with hormone therapy, women who have had breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, blood clots, liver disease or stroke should probably not take hormone replacement therapy.
Talk to your doctor if you have experienced any of these conditions and still want to find relief from your menopausal symptoms. There are many other strategies available to help you manage menopausal symptoms without taking hormones. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine can help with hot flashes. For vaginal discomforts associated with menopause like dryness and painful intercourse, vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can help.