Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often used to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause as it works to replace the female hormones that the body no longer makes anymore. It can also be used to prevent bone loss and reduce fractures. However, ever since the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial found that HRT could increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots, the amount of women taking this medication dropped dramatically. Due to the risks, many people are afraid to use this form of therapy, but it can have some benefits when used correctly and depending on the person. You should weight the pros and cons with a doctor to find out if this treatment is right for you.
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Before we really get into the details of each hormone replacement therapy we must clarify some things. First up, there are two different types of HRT. The first is estrogen-only therapy (ET) which is the best form of treatment for menopause symptoms. It’s important to note that this type of therapy is only prescribed to women without a uterus (those who have gone through a hysterectomy), says North American Menopause Society (NAMS). The second type is a combination of estrogen and progestogen therapy (EPT). This can be prescribed to women with a uterus because the progestogen protects women with a uterus from uterine cancer.
Next thing to know is that there are two different ways to take hormone therapy: systemic hormone therapy and low-dose vaginal products. Systemic hormone therapy can come in the form of pill, skin patch, gel, cream, or spray. This type is the most effective for symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. “Estrogen can also ease vaginal symptoms of menopause, such as dryness, itching, burning and discomfort with intercourse,” writes the Mayo Clinic. On the other hand, low-dose vaginal products are either a cream, tablet, or ring and these are the most effective for treating vaginal and some urinary symptoms, but do so in a safe low-dose method.
Now onto the pros and cons of each form of HRT…
1. Estrogen Treatment: Pills
According to WebMD, oral pills are the most common form of hormone replacement therapy. The source also provides some examples which are “conjugated Estrogens (Premarin), estradiol (Estrace), and Estratab.”
You must consult with a doctor to determine which one is right for you, if at all. The source also notes that most estrogen pills are to be taken only once a day, with food. Although, some can have a more complicated schedule.