Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has gotten al lot of mixed reviews. On the one hand, many women claim that HRT has freed them from the discomfort of menopause (which includes hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness). Others, includig Oprah Winfrey, have said that it’s boosted energy levels, alleviated insomnia, and improved concentration.
But HRT, like all medications, have risks. Here are some things you may want to know before getting hormone replacement therapy.
Risks of hormone replacement therapy
HRT has been associated with higher risk for stroke, and blood clots in the legs (though some say that there is reduced risk if you get patches or gels, instead of pills). Doctors are also wary of giving it to people who have a family history of breast cancer, because the combination of estrogen and progestin can further elevate your risk).
Alternatives to hormone replacement therapy
Because of the risk, some people believe that HRT should only be taken as a last resort. You may want to try natural and homeopathic remedies such as massage, meditation and relaxation techniques. Simple changes, such as avoiding alcohol, coffee and spicy food, can also help.
When to consider hormone replacement therapy
You are considered a good candidate for HRT if the symptoms of menopause (such as insomnia and hot flashes) are already affecting your ability to enjoy life. You may be so tired that you have difficulty concentrating at your job, or your discomfort has reached a point that you are giving up hobbies that give you great relaxation and pleasure.
You also need to look at the type of menopause symptoms you are experiencing. For example, women who suffer from vaginal dryness can find alternative medical treatments, such as topical vaginal estrogen products.
When to avoid hormone replacement therapy completely
Because of HRT’s association with cancer, do not get this treatment if you have a high risk for breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer. People with liver ailments or history of vaginal bleeding, or have a high risk for stroke, are also strongly discouraged against taking HRT.
Tips for getting hormone replacement therapy
Experts recommend taking HRT for 2 to 4 years, maximum. You should also be completely upfront with your doctor about your medical history, and at the same time, listen to your own feelings on the issue. Even if your doctor is suggesting HRT, if you have any qualms against it, ask a second opinion or just plain and simple say ‘No.’ It is your body, and if you feel that HRT is not right for you—or you have tried it and do not wish to continue it—then there are other alternatives available to you. You should also get information on HRT from credible and neutral sources, such as the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Photo from walkinclinicandmedspa.com