Should You Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy?

A few years ago, hormone replacement therapy was a standard practice. Not only did taking hormones relieve the symptoms of menopause, but common wisdom said that estrogen had a protective effect against heart disease and osteoporosis. At that time, most drug trials and medical research was done on men because they had no reproductive risk. The "medical model" became a model for treating health related problems based on male physiology. Hormone replacement therapy was routinely prescribed based on the best medical knowledge at the time, but knowledge that had not been thoroughly tested in women's bodies.

Then the Women's Health Initiative was published and it showed that women who took estrogen had a greater risk of having a heart attack than those who didn't, and we began to realize that hormone replacement therapy carried some risks. Many women stopped taking their hormones, and many physicians stopped prescribing them.

Even after the Women's Health Initiative, hormone replacement therapy is still a good treatment for some women. Physicians no longer routinely prescribe hormones; they are used thoughtfully after looking at the risks and benefits. Women take a more active role in deciding what—if any—treatment they want for menopausal symptoms, and some still choose hormone replacement therapy.

Natural Hormone Therapy

Some women still want to use hormone replacement therapy, but they are looking for a better option than traditional HRT. Natural hormone therapy with bioidentical hormones is an option many are taking,

Bioidentical hormones are produced from plants and are exactly like your own natural hormones. Because they are identical, our bodies use them exactly like we do our own hormones. The hormones that were usually prescribed before the WHI report were synthetic hormones, made from horse or pig hormones. They were chemically different than our natural hormones, and that may have caused them to be used differently.

Natural hormone therapies can include a number of different bioidentical hormones, including estradiol, testosterone, DHEA and human growth hormone. The most commonly used one, however, is progesterone cream. Many women find that using progesterone cream every day decreases the hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

Natural hormones, such as progesterone cream, are widely available without a prescription. Some clinics even custom-compound combinations of hormones specifically for your individual needs. The physician measures the levels of various hormones and prescribes the exact quantities needed to bring your hormone levels up to normal. A pharmacist compounds the medications you need, and your treatment is monitored and adjusted often.

Individualized hormone replacement therapy may relieve the symptoms of menopause, and it may restore your overall hormone balance for improved health and well-being.