As levels of reproductive hormones decrease, as is common with the transition into menopause, many women turn to a treatment known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although HRT can help balance levels, women should inform themselves thoroughly before use.
To learn more about hormone replacement therapy, including what HRT is, what HRT is used for, and various types of HRT medications, keep reading below.
What Is HRT?
Hormone replacement therapy is what doctors call treatment that introduces outside hormones into the body when natural hormone production decreases.
HRT consists of hormones that are natural or synthetic:
Natural HRT hormones. Also known as bioidentical hormones, natural hormones are synthesized from plant or animal sources and are structured to function the same in the human body as endogenous hormones. They are claimed to be safer than synthetic HRT preparations.
Synthetic HRT hormones. Synthetic hormones, as their name suggests, are chemically made as opposed to being derived from plants or animals. Synthetic estrogens include dienoestrol, ethinyloestradiol, and mestranol, and synthetic progesterone hormones include dydrogesterone, medroxyprogesterone, and levonorgestrel.
What Does HRT Do?
Throughout women's reproductive years, the ovaries create key reproductive hormones that guide the menstrual cycle and support the health of other bodily systems. Then, when transitioning into menopause,the ovaries slow down hormone production, resulting in unbearable symptoms.
Because HRT combats a natural hormonal deficiency, treatment helps to relieve symptoms of hormonal imbalance, including hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, fatigue, and many more.
Types of HRT
Women and their doctors will need to choose from among the varying types of HRT medications according to their preferences, symptoms, and health.
- Implants (which are put under the skin)
- Topical creams, gels, and sprays
- Pills and tablets
- Skin patches
- Vaginal rings, creams, and suppositories
Follow the link to have a better understanding of types of HRT so that you can feel confident about deciding on the best option for your health.
HRT Treatment Regimens
During HRT, key reproductive hormones are prescribed cyclically or continuously, depending on the stage of menopause a woman finds herself in and severity of symptoms. The main hormones administered are:
Estrogen. Estrogen-only HRT is for women who have had a hysterectomy and, therefore, no longer need progesterone to counteract its effects.
Progesterone. Progesterone is often given alongside estrogen to reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer. However, it is safe to take on its own.
Testosterone. Doctors rarely advise the use of testosterone-only therapy for women. If levels are low, a small dosage for short-term treatment will be pursued with close monitoring.
- Combined. Any of the aforementioned hormones may be used in combination with one another depending on a woman's medical history and preferences. Estrogen and progesterone are most commonly used in conjunction.
Continue reading all about common hormones for replacement therapy by clicking on the preceding link in order to keep learning all there is to know about HRT before deciding if it's right for you.
- Bartke, A. & Constanti, A. (Eds.). (2005). Basic Endocrinology: For Students of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences. The Netherlands: Harwood Academic Publishers. Available from Google Books.
- NHS. (2016). Overview: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) | Types: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Retrieved January 7, 2019, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt/ | https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt/types/
- Society for Endocrinology. (2018). What is HRT? Retrieved January 7, 2019, from http://www.yourhormones.info/topical-issues/what-is-hrt/