Welcome to Embrace the Change

HRT – Hormone Replacement Therapy

HRT

When I first started on the menopause I found that I wanted to learn how I could take control of this stage of my life.

Like many women I didn’t think I wanted to take HRT (and the jury’s still out on that one), but didn’t know the alternatives. However I was totally unaware of how uncomfortable and sometimes distressing the symptoms of the menopause could be.

I’ve struggled with this – not wanting to get involved with medication for what is, in the end, a natural process but, on the other hand, wanting to have the benefits that HRT offers. As a result I’ve tried HRT, come off it and gone back onto it. Neither state has proved an ideal solution.

In the end the choice of whether to take HRT is individual to each and every woman going through the menopause. What we’ve tried to do here is give a simple synopsis of the way HRT works and the pros and cons. We’ve also added in some links to other sites that go into this in more detail (and with more authority) than we can.

How HRT Works

During the menopause your ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen as they used to and this is what leads to the symptoms you experience.

HRT contains a natural, low dose, oestrogen which effectively replaces the oestrogen your body is no longer making and, as a result the symptoms diminish. It is normally taken as a daily tablet although it can be applied as a gel, patch, vaginal tablet, pessary, ring or implant.

In addition, for those of us who haven’t had a hysterectomy, progestogen is added which reduces the risk of oestrogen causing the lining of the womb to thicken and reduces the risk of cancer of the womb.

The Pros and Cons of HRT

The pros of taking HRT are fairly clear

A significant reduction in menopausal symptoms (perhaps 70%)
A reduced risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
By themselves these would make the taking of HRT pretty much a “no brainer”

However there are some fairly significant cons

A general aversion to “taking medicines unnecessarily” – this is one of my biggest issues. I don’t believe in taking medicines if it can be avoided, particularly where this is over a lengthy period. So if your symptoms aren’t that severe and can be alleviated by some other method I’d rather go down that route.

Breast Cancer – there has been a lot of publicity about this. It appears that the risk is higher if you are taking the version of HRT containing progestogen, which is recommended if you have your womb to reduce the risk of cancer of the womb. In any event the risks are believed to be relatively small unless HRT is continued for more than 5 years after the age of 50.

Cancer of the Womb – oestrogen only HRT is said to increase the chances of this type of cancer – but the version with progestogen apparently eliminates this risk.

Blood Clots; there is a slight increased risk of blood clots.

Heart Disease / Strokes – it was thought that HRT actually reduced the possibility of heart disease, however it would appear that current thinking is that there is a slightly increased risk, although this is said to be very dependant on a wide range of other age and health factors.

Should I user HRT?

This is a very brief summary of what we’ve gleaned from books and articles and doesn’t go into the sort of depth that is possible in more specialist materials. The “best” solution for you is exactly that – for you. You need to talk to your GP and get his or her advice, taking account of your age, general health, use of other medication and the severity of your symptoms.

Here are a few sources of information on the subject of HRT which you might find helpful:

Menopause Matters

BBC Health

NHS Direct