Hormone Replacement Therapy – What are your options?
If you’re a woman on the self-confident side of 40, you will no doubt have heard about Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, but do you know whether it’s the right option for you? What does HRT do exactly?
HRT: What is it? Do I need it?
Menopause is bad enough, now you’ve just discovered that peri-menopause – the hormonal instability leading up to menopause – is a ‘thing’ as well. Peri-menopause brings with it a bunch of other ‘things’ that can last for years before you’re officially in menopause.
Things like hot flushes, night sweats, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, bladder infections, memory loss, reduced sex drive, mood swings, dry skin and even itchy eyes.
During peri-menopause, the declining production of the hormone oestrogen causes many of those uncomfortable symptoms listed above. These symptoms as well as their severity vary from person to person.
As oestrogen has an impact on your entire body, the primary focus of HRT for menopause symptoms is on replacing the oestrogen. Replacing levels of depleted progesterone, testosterone and other hormones may also feature in a HRT treatment plan.
As with any medical treatment, there are risks associated with using HRT that you should be aware of. These risks depend on the type and dose of therapy, your age, the length of treatment and individual health risks.
However there can also be benefits.
Including low levels of testosterone as part of your HRT can improve strength and energy.
HRT has also been shown, among certain groups, to reduce the risk of various chronic conditions in postmenopausal women, including diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
HRT may be helpful for you if…
- You experience premature or early menopause. This gives you an increased risk of early onset osteoporosis and heart disease which can be moderated with HRT.
- You experience severe and persistent symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause.
- You experience moderate to severe hot flushes and night sweats.
- You have an oestrogen deficiency at any time in your life.
- Hormone therapy has also proven to prevent bone loss and reduce fracture in post-menopausal women.
HRT may NOT be for you if…
- You have a history of breast cancer.
- You have comorbidities such as liver disease, migraines, epilepsy, diabetes, fibroids, endometriosis or high blood pressure. HRT can be provided topically with special consideration from your GP.
- You have been post-menopausal for over 10 years.
Long term solution – not a quick fix
It’s important to know HRT is not a quick fix. HRT is a long-term treatment and you may not feel improvement for days, or even a few months.
HRT: Know your options.
HRT is basically a treatment with a combination of hormones that can be administered in a variety of ways, including via creams, dissolvable tablets, capsules or by pessary. The method of intake can affect results.
Everyone is different, so first of all, any medical advice needs to come from your GP, based on your personal circumstances and any underlying issues.
Many patients and GPs find they are best served with a bio-identical HRT treatment. This is a custom HRT treatment prepared by a compounding pharmacy with a patient’s particular health needs and lifestyle in mind.
As with all medications, HRT can have side effects. Bio-identical HRT compounded products can reduce side effects of HRT and are considered more naturally aligned hormones than body-identical pharmaceuticals.
However, as the TGA in Australia does not classify bio-identical compounding hormones as pharmaceuticals, they are not regulated. Therefore, it’s important if you choose this course of action to ensure you are using a quality compound pharmacy that uses only quality ingredients and has a vast knowledge of hormone therapies, like National Custom Compounding.
An integrative doctor, one who blends conventional medicine with evidence-based natural and complementary medicines and therapies, can assist with the best advice when it comes to balanced HRT decisions.
For best results any hormone therapy should be tailored to each person and reviewed regularly with your GP to ensure the benefits you are receiving still outweigh any risks.
If HRT is not the way forward for you, you may find a combination of targeted medications, either natural supplements or prescription, can help with certain disruptive symptoms, such as hot flushes. Your National Custom Compounding pharmacist can help with this, as well.
Whether you choose HRT, adopt a wait-and-see approach or try something else, always seek regular follow-up care with your doctor and keep the conversation going with your GP throughout your menopausal years.