Deciding if you want to have hormone replacement therapy is something that most women of ‘a certain age’ will have at some point considered. Being menopausal is described in many ways, but ‘glamorous’ and ‘enjoyable’ are not usually the first words that spring to mind.
HRT offers many women a Get Out of Jail Free card for menopause, but if it’s so great, then why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, you might think that HRT is the perfect cold towel to your hot flushes but there’s a little more to it than that. In order to make smart and informed decisions about HRT it’s important to understand what it is, what it does and who it’s right for.
What is HRT?
HRT stands for hormone replacement therapy, and while you may only be familiar with HRT as part of the medical transition that some transgender people undergo, it is also a common treatment for menopausal symptoms in women. It can be used by women who are going through menopause, premature menopause and by women who have had a hysterectomy.
HRT replaces hormones that are no longer being produced by your body, predominantly your ‘baby making’ hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Once you begin menopause your body slows down its production of these hormones which can cause some pretty unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects.
HRT treats these symptoms but also has one other pretty huge benefit: it has proven helpful in preventing osteoporosis, which can be caused by low estrogen levels.
Types of HRT
You can either be treated with a combined HRT regimen that uses estrogen and progestogen, or estrogen-only HRT. Most women opt for combined because estrogen-only HRT can increase your risk of uterine cancer. If you have had your uterus removed though, you are good to go on whichever kind of HRT your doctor advises!
There are a plethora of ways that you can take HRT and how you choose to do it all depends on your medical history and your personal preferences. You can either take medication in cycles or continuously, and the style of medication varies a lot as well. There are tablets, patches, pessaries and topical creams available.
Topical creams are used to treat specific symptoms things like vaginal dryness, which is a real downside to menopause!
Who Can Undergo HRT?
Most women are able to have HRT if they wish to, however there are some common previous medical conditions that may make it unsuitable, such as cancer, liver disease or if you have experienced blood clots in the past. If you have a genetic condition like a BRCA mutation, then HRT is also not advised. Not all pre-existing conditions will put HRT out of reach; things like high blood pressure may just need to be regulated before you can begin treatment.
Risks and Side Effects of HRT
Most medical practitioners agree that the benefits of HRT outweigh the cons for the majority of cases.
But what are the cons? The negative effects of HRT are very similar (ironically) to PMS; tender breasts, headaches, nausea, indigestion, stomach pain and vaginal bleeding. These symptoms will usually fade within the first 3 months as your body becomes used to the increased levels of hormones.
These symptoms might be annoying but they’re not considered serious. However there can be more serious side effects to HRT, like blood clots and increased risk of cancer. Though these are much less common and your doctor will talk you through the risks before prescribing any type of HRT.
Is HRT Right for You?
How you decide to deal with your menopause is a personal decision, and there is definitely no one-size-fits-all solution. Every woman needs to find her own path to the next stage of womanhood whether it involves HRT or stocking up on cold towels, but it’s important to remember that, menopause ain’t all bad; there are some silver linings that are often overlooked!
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.
A collective group of “lady experts” at Intimina who love sharing our personal experiences, even when they are a little too personal. We believe it’s time to start breaking down the taboos around menstruation, motherhood, and menopause, and start owning our female health.