HRT is a treatment prescribed by doctors to help with severe or persistent menopausal symptoms. It is controversial because of the potential for a wide range of side effects and a previous tendency for doctors to recommend it to any menopausal woman. Here our menopause expert Eileen Durward takes us through the information available on HRT.
HRT is the commonly used abbreviation for Hormone Replacement Therapy. It is a type of treatment used to relieve the symptoms of menopause in women. HRT replaces the female hormones no longer produced after menopause and involves taking small doses of these hormones, oestrogen or progesterone.
Female hormones, known as oestrogen and progesterone are produced naturally in the body until the time of menopause. With each menstrual cycle, oestrogen helps release eggs from the ovaries and regulates a woman’s period. Progesterone prepares the womb for pregnancy and protects the lining of the womb.
Although HRT was first produced in the 1940s, it was not until the 1960s that it became more available and widely used. Studies performed between 2000 and 2004 raised concerns about the safety of HRT, as there was evidence to suggest that it increased the risk of female cancers and other side effects. However, the evidence is considered by some to be controversial. Nevertheless, this scientific information has led many women to seek alternative forms of treatment.
HRT can be taken in many forms: tablet; patch; gel; cream; implant or vaginally. There are more than 50 types of HRT available, and so certain types of HRT will be more suited to you than others. It is important to find the correct type for your individual situation.
Common forms include:
Cyclical HRT - this imitates the natural menstrual cycle
Oestrogen-only HRT – this is normally prescribed to women who have had a hysterectomy
Continuous Combined Therapy (CCT) – this combines oestrogen and progesterone
Many women can manage the symptoms of menopause without HRT through using more natural treatments. Alternative approaches can manage the symptoms by creating a similar effect in the body as oestrogen, or allowing the body to manage the physical changes brought about by menopause.
Such alternatives include:
Symptom relieving drugs
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing stress
While we can make you aware of the current scientific information available about HRT, there are certain situations when a face-to-face consultation with your doctor is important and necessary. Such instances are to discuss:
Starting HRT - While the decision to take HRT or not is a personal one, a doctor will be able to discuss the various options surrounding the menopause and HRT with you. This will ensure that a solution most suited to you will be found.
Risks of HRT - HRT may present a greater risk to some women, particularly those with a history of cancer, blood clots, strokes or heart disease. This will need to be discussed with a doctor before HRT can be prescribed.
Taking HRT - It is important to have regular health check-ups with your doctor while taking HRT.
Hello lovely ladies, my name is Eileen and I have worked in the Education Department at A.Vogel for over 18 years, lecturing and advising on many health concerns via the Helpline, including the menopause and its dreaded symptoms.
My own personal experience of going through the menopause (and surviving it), which I regularly blog about, as well as that of hundreds of menopause women who ring the helpline or email me every day, allows me to offer my guidance, advice and sometimes just a much needed shoulder to cry on, to menopausal women all over the world.
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