Is hormone replacement therapy right for you?

Night sweats. Hot flashes. Mood swings.

Any woman who has experienced the symptoms of menopause knows they can be unpleasant and affect your daily activities or quality of life. And, fortunately, some women are able to find relief from their symptoms through lifestyle changes.

“Regular exercise, avoiding trigger foods, finding time to relax, and adjusting your sleep environment are simple changes that are enough to keep menopause symptoms under control for some women,” says Jocelyn Craparo, MD, OB/GYN at Bryn Mawr Hospital. “But for others, relief does not come as easily.”

Hormone replacement therapy

For women who require a stronger form of relief, many OB/GYNs recommend hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. HRT offers relief to women who experience moderate to severe symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and also decreases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that occurs more commonly in women as they age, especially in the years following menopause.

“During menopause, women’s bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone, and the fluctuating levels of these hormones can contribute to menopause symptoms,” explains Dr. Craparo. “HRT offers relief by replenishing the supply of these hormones.”

Types of hormone replacement therapy

There are two types of hormone replacement therapy that are most commonly used to treat the symptoms of menopause: Estrogen therapy (ET) and Estrogen/Progesterone/Progestin therapy (EPT).

Estrogen therapy is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for menopause symptoms, and is used especially among women who have had a hysterectomy in the past. Estrogen therapy reduces many of the symptoms of menopause, and is available via a number of different delivery methods, including a patch, tablet, gel, implant, vaginal cream, or vaginal ring.

EPT is a therapy option reserved for women who have not had a hysterectomy in the past. The use of estrogen can cause an increase in uterine cancer so, for women who still have their uterus, EPT uses progesterone to complement the estrogen and reduce the risk of uterine cancer in menopausal women. EPT is available in a variety of forms, as well.

Risks of hormone replacement therapy

Although HRT has been a beneficial treatment for many women, it can be a controversial topic, in part for its role in contributing to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, and gall bladder disease in some patients. Dr. Craparo reminds women that, like many medical treatments, HRT is not without risks.

“HRT is not going to be appropriate for everyone, and would not be recommended to women whose medical history increases their risk for any of these conditions,” she explains. “For women who do pursue HRT, we work closely with the patient and her primary care physician to ensure treatment does not negatively affect her health.”

If you’re interested in learning more about hormone replacement therapy, talk to your OB/GYN about your questions and concerns. They can help you determine what treatment method is best to alleviate your menopause symptoms. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654).

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