Hormone Replacement Therapy
Most people have heard of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but any lingering doubts about safety should be relieved by a visit to your doctor who should reassure you about modern versions of the medication.
HRT is available in tablet, patches, gels, and topical form. Put simply HRT replaces the hormones that are at lower levels as you approach the menopause.
As well as relieving symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and reduced sex drive it can help prevent the conditions which cause your bones from weakening which are more common during and after menopause.
HRT is available in a number of variations with or without progesterone. It is suitable for most women, but make sure your physician knows about any history of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer, blood clots, high blood pressure or liver disease. These conditions don’t necessarily rule out HRT, but it’s important they are taken into consideration while choosing what type and combination you might try.
Be aware that it is still possible to get pregnant while on HRT so you should use contraception until two years have passed since your last period if you are under 50, or one year if you are over 50.
Most women take HRT for a couple of years until their menopausal symptoms have ceased. You can just stop it, but most medical professionals advise you gradually decrease your HRT dose to prevent symptoms from returning.
There are some risk factors to taking HRT including a slightly higher risk of blood clots and breast cancer, but the benefits are generally considered to outweigh the risks.
If HRT isn't an option for you, you may ask your doctor about bioidentical hormones made from plant sources. They are available in tablet, patch and gel forms.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some forms of manufactured bioidentical hormones, including bioidentical estriol (a weak form of estrogen) and progesterone. However, the FDA hasn’t approved any custom-compounded bioidentical hormones. Most bioidentical hormones are manufactured and sold without controls for safety, quality, or purity.
Many medical organizations have taken a stand against the marketing and use of unapproved bioidentical hormones.
Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you aren’t able to take HRT, or you’d prefer not to, there are alternatives ways of managing menopausal symptoms:
- Make lifestyle changes. Ensure you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, get plenty of rest to improve mood and sleep. Activities like yoga or Tai Chi may help you relax. Cut down on caffeinated foods, alcohol, and spicy foods. They have all been known to trigger hot flashes.
- Stop smoking. Ask your health care provider or even check the aisles of your local pharmacy for help. You can join a support group, try hypnotherapy or use patches, e-cigarettes or gum to help you. Giving up smoking could reduce hot flashes as well as lower your risk for serious health conditions.
- Use lubricants and add romance. If your sex life is struggling due to dryness, pain or a loss of libido explore the lubricants on offer in stores. You can also buy estrogen-free creams and lotions which can moisturize the genital area and relieve any soreness or itching caused by dryness. Take a little longer to get in the mood. Maybe just a small glass of wine, some candles or utilize whatever turns you on to make sex more relaxed and enjoyable.
- Try counseling and/or antidepressants. If your mood is consistently low or you are feeling very anxious talk to your healthcare provider, especially if mood swings are affecting your work or personal life.
- Experiment with complementary therapies. Health shops sell a wide range of combination menopause remedies along with herbal remedies like evening primrose oil, black cohosh, angelica, ginseng, and St John’s Wort. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice about complementary therapies, especially if you take conventional medication for any other health conditions. Buy complementary therapies from reputable sources such as licensed homeopathic practitioners or your local drugstore rather than from the internet.
The Bottom Line...
The main thing to take from this is taking control of your own menopausal period is the best way to avoid “suffering” from the menopause.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences with friends and family so they can be understanding if you are not feeling yourself. Always remember it’s okay to ask for help.