There are two primary hormones involved in the control of the menstrual cycle in women – these are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen regulates the activities of the female reproductive system, while progesterone maintains the early stages of gestation. The production of these hormones within the ovaries decreases as women age and can lead to many issues. Replacement of these natural hormones with artificial medications is known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Why a woman may wish to start a hormone replacement therapy
There are various reasons why a woman may wish to start hormone replacement therapy. HRT is used to treat discomfort in the vagina, such as vaginal dryness, pain, and a burning sensation during sex. HRT can also treat other conditions like hot flashes, sweating at night, loss of bone density (osteoporosis), and sleeping problems.
Women with low levels of estrogen may require HRT. Insufficient quantities of estrogen in females may result from Turner syndrome, excessive physical activity, defective pituitary gland, anorexia, and premature ovarian failure. This is manifested by infertility, fatigue, palpitations, bloating, irritability, and loss of hair.
During surgery, the ovaries may be removed as a result of other medical complications. Such women may wish to start HRT due to a lack of natural progesterone and estrogen. Estrogen is administered to protect the woman against heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis, and some cancers.
Loss of function of the ovaries may also require HRT – this can be due to treatment procedures such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. For abnormal menstruation and chronic menstruation complications, HRT is also often needed.
What HRT involves
The doctor may administer the hormone in the form of a pill, vaginal ring, spray, patch, or gel.
Women mostly use estrogen pills when they have problems with their menstruation. These pills may be conjugated estrogens, for example, Cenestrin and Ogen, or estrogens-bazedoxifene. Most of these medications are taken once within 24 hours, without meals.
The estrogen patch is attached to the lower abdomen and replaced depending on the prescribed dosage. Examples include Estraderm, Alora, and Vivelle.
Sprays, gels, and creams can be used to convey estrogen into the body. Examples are gels (Divigell), sprays (Evamist), and creams (Estrasorb). In this case, absorption occurs through the skin.
Vaginal creams and tablets, and vaginal rings are mainly used to treat pain and a burning sensation during sex, and vaginal dryness. Examples of vaginal rings, tablets, and creams are Estring, Vagifem, and Estrace. Replacement of vaginal rings occurs after three months.
Estrogen and progestin can also be combined, which lowers the risk of contracting endometrial cancer. Progestins can be taken orally in the form of a pill, for example, Provera. Natural progesterone is preferred over progestins since it is non-reactive to lipids.
HRT is usually not suitable for women with a history of the following complications; stroke, cancer, blood clots, liver failure, and heart attack.
Benefits of Hormone/Menopausal Replacement Therapy
HRT can prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as enhancing good sleep and can relieve night sweats in women. It also lowers the risk of cognitive decline and improves sex drive. Furthermore, HRT reduces the chances of colon cancer and diabetes.
Side effects of HRT
There are various health risks and side effects associated with HRT. The risks associated with HRT include endometrial cancer, blood clots, breast cancer, stroke, and more. The side effects most commonly linked to HRT include indigestion, tender breasts, abdominal pain, and mood changes.
A woman may wish to start HRT due to low hormone levels and when near or during menopause. HRT has various methods of administration, risks, and benefits. Therefore, it is always crucial to get recommendations from a certified or personal doctor.