HRT, Hormone Replacement Therapy
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Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause

What is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
and why would I need it?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) provides women with, or replaces, hormones that their ovaries stop making. The ovaries make estrogen and progesterone as part of the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also make androgens, including testosterone. Hormone levels usually start to change during perimenopause, the years just before menopause. In perimenopause, many women begin to have symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, and insomnia. The reason for the symptoms is usually fluctuating and declining hormone levels.

These hormonal changes are due to aging ovaries that are losing their ability to produce eggs and hormones. Women may have widely varying estrogen levels during their monthly cycles as the ovaries keep trying to produce eggs. Often there will be cycles in which no ovulation occurs (called anovulatory cycles) and no progesterone is produced. This can lead to irregular cycles with heavy or abnormal bleeding as a woman approaches menopause.

At menopause, the ovaries stop producing and releasing eggs (ovulating) each month, and monthly periods stop completely. The ovaries are no longer producing estradiol and progesterone (although they continue to produce androgens). Menopause does not mean, however, that you have no estrogen in your body anymore. Women with more body fat usually have more estrogen than thinner women do, because estrogen is aromatized in fatty tissue.

After menopause, there is much less estrogen and testosterone in the body than before menopause, and very little progesterone. This drop in hormone levels can have various effects, including the familiar symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and loss of libido.

A woman who has a surgical menopause, in which her ovaries are removed (usually along with her uterus and fallopian tubes), will have a much more sudden drop in all sex hormone levels than a woman going through natural menopause. This sudden loss of hormones can cause severe symptoms and health problems, especially in younger women, unless adequate hormone replacement is provided.

HRT is most often prescribed to help with the symptoms of menopause. HRT may have a number of other benefits, such as preventing bone loss, but it also has risks. Talk to your healthcare provider about all possible options. Depending on your situation, you may decide to use HRT on a short-term basis, a longer-term basis, or not at all.

 

Please read on...

  What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Why Would I Need It?
NEXT:
What Hormones Are Used in HRT? and How Is HRT Taken?
  About Estrogen
  About Progesterone
  Benefits, Risks and Side Effects of ERT, HRT, and NHRT
  HRT and Breast Cancer
  Androgens, SERMs and Other Drugs for Menopause
  What Are Some Alternatives to Standard HRT?
  Resources and References

 

For more information about managing your menopause, see these topics on Project AWARE:

Page uploaded September 2002

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

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Updated 09/29/2010