The decision to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a big step for many women. Some wonder about the benefits of HRT, while others worry about possible effects from the treatment. Almost every woman who considers hormone replacement therapy appreciates information on the pros and cons of the therapy.
Approximately 80 percent of women who go through menopause experience symptoms and about one-fourth of these women experience severe symptoms of menopause. The symptoms of menopause can be more severe than many women anticipate, and symptoms can last longer than expected too. Night sweats and hot flashes can last for more than seven years in more than half of all women!
Doctors often prescribe hormone replacement therapy to treat moderate to severe menopause symptoms. Despite the benefits of HRT, only a small percentage of women in menopause use hormone replacement therapy.
Menopause is a time that marks the end of menstrual cycles. It means that a woman can no longer bear children because her ovaries, which produce eggs, no longer produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and a woman stops ovulating.
Menopause generally begins when a woman is in her late 40s or early 50s. The average age of menopause is 51 in the United States.
Symptoms of menopause can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. These symptoms can often interfere with a woman’s daily life. Menopause symptoms primarily include hot flashes, sleep problems due to night sweats, and vaginal changes, primarily dryness. Symptoms vary according to the levels of estrogen and progesterone, which tend to fluctuate as the ovaries stop functioning.
Pros of Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women
Hormone replacement therapy provides a number of benefits for women, especially for women suffering from symptoms of menopause. First, hormone replacement therapy helps women feel better. HRT also protects against bone loss and many other health conditions.
Hormonal fluctuations during peri-menopause cause uncomfortable symptoms – HRT can alleviate those symptoms to help women feel more comfortable. Hormone replacement therapy is exceptionally good at relieving hot flashes, particularly at night.
HRT can improve vaginal health. Decreased moisture production can cause vaginal dryness. Loss of elasticity, coupled with vaginal dryness, can cause pain and even slight bleeding during intercourse. Reduced sensation may affect libido as well. Hormone therapy can help relieve dryness and increase moisture and sensation, making sex more pleasurable. Loss of tissue elasticity can affect the vagina and urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world. Loss of elasticity here can cause sudden, frequent and strong urges to urinate. It can even cause urinary incontinence, which is the leaking of urine from the bladder. Women in menopause may even have urinary tract infections (UTIs) more frequently. Hormones help maintain elasticity and muscle tone in the bladder and urethra, helping resolve embarrassing symptoms.
HRT protects bones. Estrogen, produced by the ovaries, helps keep bones strong. Estrogen decreases sharply when a woman reaches menopause and this leaves her vulnerable to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak bones. Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures of the hip and spine. In fact, one in every two women over the age of 50 will suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Hormone replacement therapy restores estrogen to levels high enough to protect bones from osteoporosis and fractures. Maintaining estrogen levels after menopause essentially stops bone loss.
Hormone replacement therapy can protect women from other health problems too. Estrogen is important to heart health, for example, so when estrogen drops because of menopause, the risk of heart problems increases. HRT can even reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy can even present unexpected benefits that everyone can love. These HRT benefits include boosted collagen production, increased skin thickness, and decreased wrinkles that defy the signs of aging. Hormone replacement therapy even lowers the percentage of body fat and decreases fat around hips and thighs.
Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women
As with all medications, hormone replacement therapy does present a risk of side effects. The main concern for women is an increased cancer risk. This is where the type of hormones used is key. Synthetic progesterone, marketed under the brand name Provera, for instance, increases breast cancer risk.
However, bio-identical progesterone actually decreases breast cancer risk as well as an endometrial cancer risk. The use of estrogen therapy may cause the uterus to grow, which increases the risk of uterine cancer; but this is only if a woman does not take progesterone to counter the effects of estrogen on the uterus.
Because of the potential for side effects, the choice to undergo hormone replacement therapy should be done only with a physician trained in bioidentical hormones. Not synthetic hormones, which can be risky. Working with a professional who can provide a personal assessment of healthcare wants and needs is helpful. A doctor can prescribe a personalized hormone replacement therapy to fit a patient’s needs, reduce their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and decrease their risk for virtually every degenerative disease of aging.
If you’re interested in learning more about our comprehensive Age Management & Hormone Optimization program, contact us through this form to schedule your free consultation, or call us at 323-874-9355.