- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Side Effects
- When to See the Doctor
- Tests for HRT
- Treatments for HRT
What is hormone replacement therapy?
Women typically undergo menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. It occurs around one year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. The menopausal transition affects the production of hormones produced by the ovaries. This leads to changes that may affect your health. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) including prescribed medication that boosts the levels of hormones lost during menopause.
A variety of hormone replacement therapies are available, but they can lead to various side effects. While some believe that HRT causes weight gain, there’s no conclusive evidence to prove it. There’s also no proof that HRT encourages weight loss.
Side effects of hormone replacement therapy
HRT may be recommended for the following conditions:
- Increased risk of vertebral and hip fractures
- Increased vaginal bleeding
- Episodes of urinary incontinence
- Higher risk of developing dementia
- Higher risk of having blood clots, heart attack, or stroke
Depending on the prescribed type of HRT, women may end up with a higher chance of developing endometrial (the lining of the uterus) or uterine cancer. It’s best to discuss the risks of each form of HRT with your doctor.
Types of hormone replacement therapy
There are several types of hormone replacement therapies available:
Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy includes a synthetic form of estrogen. This form can increase your risk of getting endometrial cancer if you still have a uterus. Healthcare providers don’t recommend using estrogen-only HRT if you have any of the following medical conditions:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Other bleeding disorders
- Liver issues
- Diagnosed with cancers like uterine or breast cancer
- Previously had a stroke or heart attack
- May be pregnant
- Blood clots in the lungs or legs
- Adverse reactions to medications containing estrogen
Women may experience the following side effects after taking estrogen-only HRT:
- Hair loss
- Tender breasts
- Vaginal spotting
- Stomach cramps
- Blood clots
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Pancreas issues
- Liver issues
- Allergic reaction
- Dementia (65 years and older)
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
Progestin-only hormone replacement therapy contains a synthetic form of progesterone. Your doctor may prescribe both estrogen-only and progestin-only HRT to decrease your risk of endometrial cancer. This form of HRT causes many of the same side effects as estrogen-only medication.
Estrogen and progestin combination
This form of hormone replacement therapy provides you with synthetic estrogen and progesterone in one dose. It can be a good option for individuals who prefer to take their HRT all at once. There’s no estrogen or progestin HRT that leads to weight loss or weight gain.
Causes of hormone replacement therapy
Women typically begin taking HRT when they start losing estrogen and progesterone hormones during menopause. Surgery to remove reproductive organs like a hysterectomy (removal of all or part of the uterus) can also decrease your hormone levels. Your doctor may recommend HRT to help your body adjust to the changes.
When to see the doctor about hormone replacement therapy
Talk to a doctor about HRT if you’re experiencing symptoms of menopause, including:
Tests for hormone replacement therapy
Doctors typically perform a physical examination to determine the cause of your hormone issues. They may also include additional diagnostic tests to check the current levels of various hormones in your system. After getting your results, they may recommend HRT to alleviate your symptoms.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Maturitas: "Weight gain and hormone replacement therapy: are women’s fears justified?"
National Cancer Institute: "Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer."
National Institute of Aging: "What Is Menopause?"
StatPearls: "Hormone Replacement Therapy."
U.S. Food & Drug Administration: "Menopause: Medicines to Help You."