Menopause is the phase in a women’s life when her menstrual cycles end or the periods stop. It is a normal part of aging. During the last years before menopause and during menopause, the hormonal levels either go too high or too low in the women, which can lead to conditions such as vaginal dryness. To overcome these problems, few women undergo HRT, i.e. hormone replacement therapy.
Although HRT is the best solution for getting relief from the menopausal symptoms, it is not completely risk-free. Knowing the pros and cons of the therapy can help women in judging their need for undergoing HRT.
Which hormones are included in HRT?
Oestrogen and progesterone are the two hormones which play an important role in women’s body. Fall or rise in the levels of these hormones can cause a range of emotional and physical disturbances in women.
Oestrogen helps the ovaries to release eggs, regulates the menstrual cycle and helps in conception. It also controls skin temperature, keeps the vagina moist, and maintains the bone density. Progesterone prepares the womb during pregnancy. Fall in the level of progesterone does not have similar kind of ill effects like with oestrogen.
However, if oestrogen alone is given during HRT, it increases the risk of womb cancer. Therefore, progesterone is also given in combination with oestrogen during the therapy. In the case of hysterectomy (where your womb is surgically removed), only oestrogen is given during HRT.
How is HRT available?
HRT can be taken in different forms including tablets; patches that are attached to your skin; implants which may be inserted under the skin of buttock, tummy or thighs; gel which can be applied to the skin for absorption of the hormone.
Your doctor will suggest the right dosage form for you.
Benefits of HRT
The major benefit of HRT is that it can effectively control the symptoms of menopause and is approved for this use. The quality of life of the woman is significantly improved. The other benefits of the therapy are:
Who should consider HRT?
You may consider undergoing HRT if you have:
Risks associated with HRT
The possible side effects of HRT include a headache, indigestion, bloating, breast tenderness, fluid retention, and depression. Other risks include the following
Factors such as your age, the time since you had menopause and the time at which you had menopause significantly affect the outcome with HRT. If you have experienced an early menopause, then the benefits of hormonal replacement therapy outweigh the risks.
Generally, the benefits outweigh the risks if the therapy is given for a short-term (less than 5 years). You should discuss the risks especially if you have undergone a long-term therapy (for more than 10 years).
How to reduce the risks with HRT?
Talk to your doctor regarding the following strategies:
Who should avoid the hormone replacement therapy?
Women who have breast cancer (either active or a history), endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, blood clots in the legs or lungs, should not take HRT.
Other approaches if HRT is not suitable for you
You can manage the menopausal symptoms by alternative approaches if HRT is not safe for you
You may ask your doctor to know which method works effectively for you.
Hormonal replacement therapy is not totally good or totally bad. Discuss with your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of HRT which are specific for you. Only your doctor can suggest if you can undergo the therapy or if you should choose any other alternative options.
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