Menopause goes by several names: the “Change,” or the “Curse,”. How ever you’ may be familiar with it, it’s an inevitable part of womanhood once you’ve reached a certain age. With menopause, many women report a slew of extremely distressing symptoms. A widely used practice for easing menopause and its symptoms, that comes with the realization of how vital hormones can be to a woman’s sexual health, has been Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT.
What Happens in Menopause?
Night sweating, hot flashes, poor quality of sleep, irritability, mood swings, signs of being mildly depressed, vaginal dryness and bone density loss are just some of the symptoms that occur during menopause. While this is not a definitive list, nor do all women experience all of these symptoms, many will present when it’s time for you to go through menopause.
Along with the symptoms, a woman’s ovaries are unable to produce an adequate level of estrogen and progesterone. Both hormones are vital in vaginal health as well as in thickening the uterine lining and prepping it in the event of the implantation of a fertilized egg. Estrogen is also important in dictating how calcium is used in the body and aids in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level in the blood. Progesterone also has the added benefit of reducing the risk of endometrial cancer in women by causing the shedding of the endometrium (lining of uterus) monthly.
Hormone Replacement Therapy is a practice in which artificial hormones are taken, usually orally in the midst of and after the onset of menopause. This provides the body with either estrogen, progesterone or both.
What Types of HRT Are Available? Currently, there are two types of HRT practiced today.
Estrogen therapy: Estrogen is the only hormone taken in a low dose via pill, patch or cream. It’s advised that estrogen in the lowest dose needed is effective against menopausal symptoms.
Progesterone/Progestin and Estrogen therapy: With this therapy, both estrogen and progesterone, or a synthetic form called progestin, are taken.
Should I Consider HRT? It’s up to you, but if you suffer from some of the previously listed symptoms, then maybe you should consult your doctor before you do so. Especially if you notice that you’re losing bone mass or you’ve stopped having periods or lost functioning of your ovaries prior to your 40th birthday. These conditions, premature menopause and premature ovarian insufficiency, can be treated with HRT as well.
Are There Any Risks Or Side-Effects?
Hormone Replacement Therapy, while an incredibly effective solution, is recommended to be used as a short-term treatment as opposed to a long term solution. Low doses of hormones have not produced any major side effects, but some women have reported mood swings, nausea, headaches, bloating, breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what dosage of hormones is right for you. Some women have reported that HRT may increase the risk of blood clots, disease of the gallbladder, strokes, heart attacks and breast cancer. Please note that you should not undergo HRT if you could be pregnant, have had past issues with vaginal bleeding, have a history of breast or uterine cancer, have a history of blood clots, have a history of strokes or heart attacks or have a disease of the heart or liver.
How can I Get Access To Treatment?
In order to be placed on hormones, you will need to consult your doctor. A trip to your gynecologist can give you the opportunity to receive an official diagnosis of your menopausal symptoms and make sure that it’s not something more serious. At your visit you can also discuss your options and concerns about this huge change in your life. You are not alone in this change and your doctor can be a great source of support and knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic of HRT to your doctor if you think you may be a good candidate. Your physician is there to listen and do what’s best for you so educate yourself before you go into the office. Be honest with them and trust them to treat you as best as possible.