Is Hormone Replacement Therapy For Everyone?
The quick answer is no. There are some contraindications for beginning HRT. Women who have had breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer, blood clots in the lungs or legs, liver disease, or unexplained vaginal bleeding should avoid HRT if possible. Women who experience natural menopause after age 45 and have mild symptoms associated with it, also do not necessarily need HRT to remain healthy. A discussion of family history and other factors should be held with a physician to determine if HRT is appropriate.
What does HRT include?
If a woman experiences menopause due to a hysterectomy, the standard HRT is estrogen only. Menopause that occurs naturally is typically treated with a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is added so uterine lining continues to shed thereby decreasing the risk of uterine cancer.
Risks and benefits of HRT
While there are some risks associated with HRT such as heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer; lifestyle choices and genetics also play a part in those risks. In many cases, the benefits far outweigh the risks of HRT. Women may experience severe hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and painful intercourse which can interfere with normal daily function and full life. Control of these symptoms and decreased risk of osteoporosis are significant benefits of HRT.
When to begin HRT
When menopause begins due to hysterectomy, HRT is often begun at once since the sudden onset of menopausal symptoms is difficult to manage. The onset of natural menopause is generally between the ages of 45 and 55 but could begin in the 30s or as late as the 60s. HRT can be started at the onset of menopause but often women wait until the symptoms become unbearable before seeking medical intervention. That is not necessary nor recommended. Research indicates the greatest benefits of HRT are found when treatment is started within 10 years of the onset of menopausal symptoms. However, additional research indicates that waiting for 5 years after the onset of menopause may reduce the risk of breast cancer associated with the therapy.
It’s not always good to be hot
Menopause is a challenging time for most women and signifies a change from one phase of life to another. Menopause can produce mental and emotional turmoil while also causing physical changes that can vary from minor annoyances to major interferences. But the good news is that menopause doesn’t have to be negative. HRT can control or even relieve symptoms. The end of menstrual cycles can also be the end of cramping, bloating, mood swings and freedom from worrying about birth control. So, when the hot flashes begin and the cycles end, talk to a healthcare professional.