What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also known as hormone therapy (HT) or menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), is a prescribed treatment of synthetic hormones which are taken with the intention of balancing or boosting a woman’s hormone levels to reduce menopause symptoms.
Do I need HRT during Menopause?
This is a common question that is asked by most women who are journeying into menopause. The internet holds a vast ocean of opinions, and it is easy to get swept away in the chaos of it all, which is why it is very important to grasp a general understanding of HRT to make an informed choice. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the risks of the various forms of HRT have not been voiced until more recent years. Initially it was hailed as a safe treatment, classed a ‘wonder drug’ that could protect against everything that threatens acute to major health discomfort and a welcomed solution for menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and vaginal dryness.
In the nineties it became public knowledge that HRT increased the risk of breast cancer, as well as heart disease, blood clots, stroke and cardiovascular disease. In keeping with these revelations, doctors were advised to prescribe the lowest dosage of HRT and for the shortest time possible and they were also advised to screen women more thoroughly for their medical history, prescribing HRT where they could and redirecting women to an alternative approach once the prescription had finished.
You should avoid HRT if you have:
- A personal or close family history of cancer of the womb or breast
- Undiagnosed vaginal bleeding
- Endometriosis (where the womb lining grows and subsequently bleeds outside the womb)
- A personal or strong family history of thrombosis (blood clots), especially if you are a smoker
- Severe cardiac, liver or kidney disease
- An impending operation within the next six weeks (an operation can increase the risk of thrombosis)
- Uterine fibroids (HRT can cause heavier bleeding)
- Breast cysts or pain
- Are over sixty year old
HRT may also aggravate:
- Multiple sclerosis
- High blood pressure (occasionally)
What are the side effects are experienced with HRT?
- Breast tenderness and enlargement
- Premenstrual symptoms, such as mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Possible weight gain
- Breakthrough vaginal bleeding mid-cycle
- Leg cramps
- Enlargement of pre-existing uterine fibroids
- Intolerance of contact lenses
- Patchy increase in skin pigmentation
- Loss of scalp hair
- Increase in body or facial hair
How long should I take HRT for?
There is no set protocol on the duration of HRT, the average duration is five years. It really depends on the health and age of the woman and what stage of menopause she is in. The duration should be mindful of the added risks of HRT whilst menopause symptoms are being controlled, in terms of being susceptible to a heart attack, blood clots, stroke, cancers etc. Remember, the menopause is not a medical condition, it is a natural phase of life and therefore should be treated naturally with diet, lifestyle and natural supplements.
How do I wean myself off HRT?
Be prepared that it could take several months to wean off HRT and make sure you have sourced an alternative regime to replace HRT which should include a phytoestrogen-rich diet, taking any supplements relevant to your personal needs (if your oestrogen levels are low, look into isoflavones as a natural alternative to HRT), enjoying some gentle, frequent exercise and a relaxation practice. It is important to start the regime before you gradually start to wean off HRT as this will lessen the oestrogen withdrawal symptoms, especially if you have been on a high dose of HRT for an extended period of time. Be very mindful of asking your doctor to guide you on weaning off HRT correctly.
If you feel you still want to try Hormone Replacement Therapy, please seek advice from your doctor or health professional.
Become™️ has a wonderful team of experts who all helped in the writing of this content. The opinions expressed within this page are the opinions of many people we asked, and from information we researched online. Become™️ is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this page. All information is provided on an as-is basis.