Menopausal hormone therapy was once a regularly prescribed treatment for the uncomfortable symptoms that tend to be associated with menopause. However, recent studies have shown that the risks of this type of therapy may outweigh the benefits. Learn more about what menopausal hormone therapy can do and when it should be used.
There are two main types of menopausal hormone therapy, each of which offers its own unique benefits. These types of therapy include:
The early studies on hormone therapy for women going through menopause were promising. However, some of this research lacked sufficient evidence to tie hormone therapy to the benefits it was believed to cause. In July 2002, new findings arose from clinical trials which suggested that the long-term use of hormone therapy increases the risk of certain health conditions, including:
When prescribed, hormone therapy often involves a combination estrogen-progestin pill. However, in some cases estrogen alone has been prescribed. The specific health risks posed by hormone therapy may depend on whether estrogen is taken alone or in combination with progestin and in what dosage. Other potential risks of hormone therapy may be affected by an individual’s age or their existing health risks for conditions like cardiovascular disease or cancer.
In addition to the long-term health risks, menopausal hormone therapy may also cause some immediate side effects, such as nausea, mood swings, headaches, vaginal bleeding, bloating and breast tenderness or swelling.
Though the information about the health risks of hormone therapy are more widely known at this point, systemic estrogen is still considered the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms and is still prescribed for certain individuals. Healthy, menopausal women who meet one of the following criteria are sometimes considered for hormone therapy:
Premature menopause can be especially dangerous for women who don’t use estrogen therapy because it can increase the risk of several serious health conditions, including dementia, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and depression. The reason that menopausal hormone therapy is safer for women with premature menopause is because the earlier onset of menopause also decreases the risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
There are a few ways you can reduce the health risks associated with hormone therapy. Discuss the following strategies with your doctor before taking hormone therapy:
Some women are able to manage their menopause symptoms by using the following techniques:
Menopause can be a difficult time for many women, so it’s understandable that they may want to use hormone therapy to relieve their symptoms. However, it’s best to try alternative techniques first to see if those are effective. If you find that alternative methods don’t relieve your menopause symptoms, or if you’re experiencing menopause early, talk to your doctor about the possible benefits of using hormone therapy and how it can be done safely.