The Origins of HRT
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was developed to combat the adverse side effects of menopause. Many women suffer from a variety of symptoms due to lower hormone levels. The therapies include bioidentical or synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones naturally created by the body before menopause. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can be customized at compound pharmacies. Patients can take a combination of both hormones or use estrogen alone depending on the person’s needs.
Ways to take HRT
Hormone therapy is delivered in pill, pellets, patch, and cream format. Doctors also prescribe HRT rings and tablets made specifically for the vagina. How HRT is taken can vary as outlined below:
- People on the pill form of HRT take the medication once daily as prescribed by the doctor. Pure estrogen HRT is usually delivered in pill form.
- The patch is worn on the stomach and must be replaced daily or weekly.
- Patients apply the cream and gel HRTs externally on the legs or arms.
The decision to start hormone therapy is between a patient and healthcare provider. HRT can relieve symptoms associated with the onset of menopause, but does have some risks and benefits. Patients interested in HRT should meet with a physician to discuss options. The doctor will examine the patient and ask questions about menopause symptoms. Doctors will also review the patient’s medical history.
Patients should understand that menopause occurs in stages. There are three major stages in the menopause cycle.
- Perimenopause: The pre-menopause stage starts in a woman’s 40s and sometimes 30s. During this phase, women experience some menopause symptoms despite being able to menstruate.
- Menopause: In this stage, the body stops sending signals to the ovaries to release eggs. Hormone levels drastically decrease, and women have the final menstruation cycle. Most women experience this change in the 50s or after getting a hysterectomy.
- Post menopause: This is the final stage of menopause that occurs a year after a woman stops the menstrual cycle. At this stage, women can experience some menopause symptoms for up to 10 years.
Speak to a healthcare provider
HRT has benefits and side effects. Researchers believe HRT helps prevent osteoporosis and heart disease in women. Taking HRT may increase risk of blood clots in some patients. For any questions regarding HRT, consult a healthcare provider or pharmacist.