Life is getting busier, but you’re having less energy every day. When you do get time to sleep you either can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep.
You know you need to get back to the gym, but other things take priority. When you do manage to fit in exercise, you’re sore for days afterward and end up feeling worse.
Although your family doctor just says you’re getting older, you’re frustrated knowing that something just isn’t right.
If this sounds familiar, it might be time to incorporate hormone replacement therapy for women in your life.
Changes in your hormones play an intricate role in your physical, emotional, and mental health as you get older.
Why Do Women Need HRT?
Hormone Replacement Therapy for women (HRT) is a treatment used to balance your hormone levels to a healthy and normal range. It replaces lost hormones with natural or synthetic alternatives.
Menopausal hormone therapy can relieve common symptoms of menopause and can also help protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, and certain types of cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy is a personalized approach that gives you the exact amount of estrogen, or testosterone, that your body is lacking to help you to feel more like yourself again.
Conditions That May Cause Hormonal Imbalance in Women
Everyone will experience a decline in hormones as they age; this is simply a part of the human aging process.
However, there are some conditions that can accelerate or exacerbate a hormone imbalance:
- Menopause – When you have been period-free for one year, you have officially entered menopause and your ovaries have shrunk which depletes your hormone production. Those who reach menopause early in life, before the age of 45 may not have enough estrogen and will benefit from HRT.
- Primary Ovarian Insufficiency – In some cases, the ovaries will lose normal function. If this occurs prior to age 45, hormone replacement therapy for women may help to restore what was lost.
- Surgical Removal of Ovaries – In some situations, the ovaries will be removed before the age of 45. In this case, you may not have enough necessary estrogen in your body. HRT can replace lost hormones due to the removal of ovaries.
Signs You Need Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you are unsure whether or not your symptoms are consistent with hormone imbalance, consider these most common signs that you may benefit from hormone replacement therapy.
- Hair Loss – If your ponytail isn’t quite what it used to be, or you are noticing more hair in your brush than normal, this can be consistent with a lack of estrogen. Hormones play a major role in the breakdown of hair leading to hair thinning and hair loss.
- Mood Swings –We all have a bad day once in a while, but if you notice your moods are more erratic than normal or you’re suddenly experiencing anxiety or nervousness more than usual, this can be due to a hormone imbalance.
- Low Libido – A lack of sex hormones can cause intimacy problems in the bedroom and dictate your performance and pleasure during sex.
- Insomnia – If you’re going to bed early, but can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, your hormones may be keeping you up at night. Typically, this lack of sleep can exacerbate other negative symptoms.
- Discomfort During Intercourse – Vaginal dryness, itching, or pain during intercourse can make bedroom activities uncomfortable and cause problems with your partner. This can be a huge stumbling block that hormone replacement therapy for women may be able to solve for you.
How Does Hormone Replacement Work?
Over the last ten years, the North American Menopause Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and The Endocrine Society have agreed that Hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy for women works by replacing two of the key hormones made by your ovaries: estrogen and progesterone.
During your childbearing years, your period played a large role in controlling these hormones. As your ovaries age, they slowly stop making hormones and your periods slow down and eventually stop. When this happens, your hormones are depleted.
Hormone replacement therapy for women provides replacement hormones that work just like the estrogen and progesterone that your ovaries make.
Increasing your hormone levels can help reduce menopause symptoms and can provide other health benefits to help you stay vibrant and healthy as you age.
9 Types of Hormones Used in Replacement Therapy
The research and innovation that has gone into hormone replacement therapy is nothing short of miraculous.
Today’s HRT uses a variety of hormones that work in the same way as natural hormones produced by the ovaries.
- Bioidentical Hormones – These hormones are derived from plants and are structurally and biologically the exact same as those that occur naturally in the human body.
- Hormones from Other Species – The first type of HRT was developed from horses and is still considered an effective natural option. Other hormones derived from plants can be synthesized in a laboratory to mimic hormonal compounds and found to be effective.
- Synthetic Hormones – One of the most common forms of synthetic hormones is found in birth control pills. These can be used for hormone replacement therapy for women as well.
- Estrogen-Only HRT – If you have had your uterus surgically removed, you may need estrogen-only HRT, which is sometimes used directly in the vagina.
- Combined HRT (Estrogen and Progestin) – Combined HRT is used most commonly because too much estrogen can increase the risk of cancer. Progestin balances out the hormone levels to protect the uterus.
- Systemic – Systemic hormone replacement therapy for women includes hormone products circulated throughout the bloodstream and to all parts of the body. This may be a daily pill, weekly patch, gel or injection, etc.
- Local (Nonsystemic) – These products affect only a specific or localized area of the body. They are available as a cream, ring, or tablet and can be used to treat a specific symptom like vaginal dryness.
- Cyclical, or Sequential, HRT – If you still have a period, cyclical hormone replacement therapy for women is a good option that will align with your menstrual cycle and the hormones you are still naturally producing.
- Continuous HRT – After menopause, a doctor may prescribe a continuous combination of estrogen and progesterone.
How is Hormone Replacement Medication Taken
There are several delivery methods for HRT. Your doctor can help you determine what method is best for you based on your lifestyle.
- Oral/Tablets – This is a daily pill that is processed through the digestive system and circulates in your bloodstream.
- Skin Patches – Similar to a Band-Aid, these patches are replaced every few days and deliver hormones through your skin into your blood.
- Injections – For estrogen-only HRT, an injection by your doctor can be more convenient than remembering to take a daily medication.
- Estrogen Gel, Cream, or Spray – These are also estrogen-only products that are applied once a day and absorbed through the skin.
- Vaginal Estrogen – These medications release estrogen directly into the vagina through a cream, tablet, or ring that is designed to help specifically with vaginal and urinary symptoms.
- Implant – This is the most common delivery for bioidentical hormones. A pellet is implanted under the skin by your doctor and delivers a steady, consistent dose of the necessary hormones.
Benefits of Replacing Your Hormones
Hormone replacement therapy for women can help reduce uncomfortable side effects of menopause, but it’s much more than that.
Your hormones are important to protecting your body against various chronic conditions and HRT plays a large role in keeping you healthy as you age
- Protects Your Bones – Hormone replacement therapy for women prevents bone loss and preserves bone integrity which lowers the risk of injuries, fractures, and osteoporosis.
- Lower the Risk of Heart Disease – HRT has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease markers when used before age 60.
- Reduces the Risk of Diabetes – For those who already have Type 2 diabetes, HRT can slow down the disease. For those without diabetes, hormone replacement therapy for women may reduce risk even if you have a family history.
- Protects Your Brain – The hot flashes many women experience can actually have an impact on memory and thinking skills. Using HRT to reduce hot flashes may protect the brain from premature aging.
- Helps Fight Early Menopause – Early menopause is considered to be before the age of 45. In these cases, hormone replacement therapy for women reduces complications throughout the body.
- Reduces the Risk of Bowel & Colon Cancer – There is some evidence that suggests combination HRT may reduce your risk of both bowel and colon cancer.
Risks and Side Effects of Hormone Therapy for Women
While hormone replacement therapy for women can be very beneficial for most women, it is not risk-free.
Depending on your personal history and hormone use, hormone replacement therapy for women may carry the following health risks.
- Blood Clots – Women under the age of 60 may have an increased risk of blood clots forming inside the veins during the first 2 years of HRT.
- Stroke – In some cases, women who use HRT are at a higher risk of stroke.
- Uterine Cancer – The risk of endometrial cancer here is small and estimated to be one case per 10,000 HRT users each year.
- Breast Cancer – Long-term use of combination hormone therapy use may pose a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
- Monthly Bleeding or Irregular Spotting – If you have a uterus and take cycled progestin, you may experience an increase in monthly bleeding or irregular spotting.
- Breast Tenderness and Density – For some women, they may experience breast tenderness and an increased breast density making mammogram interpretations more difficult.
- Headache and Mood Swings – This is a fairly common side effect within the first few months of hormone replacement therapy for women.
- Fluid Retention – While there is no direct link between HRT and weight gain, it can cause increased fluid retention.
- Skin Irritation and Discoloration – This is most commonly found near or around an estrogen patch.
Alternatives Available for Hormone Therapy
If you opt-out of hormone therapy, there are some alternative ways to control your menopausal symptoms.
These are not necessarily a replacement for HRT but may provide some relief.
- Exercise – Staying physically active can help to reduce hot flashes and improve your quality of sleep.
- Eat Healthy – Keeping your body fueled properly not only helps regulate weight but also supports healthy bones and cardiovascular systems.
- Vaginal Lubricants – These over-the-counter products can be helpful for vaginal dryness without a prescription.
- Prescription Medication – There are two popular prescriptions used to treat symptoms that are not hormone replacement. Clonidine can help with hot flashes and Tibolone (Livial) may help with sex drive.
- Antidepressants – Antidepressants are often used to help with hot flashes, but it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an antidepressant.
How Much Does Hormone Therapy Cost?
Because hormone therapy is a natural part of aging, it is often covered (at least in part) by most insurance plans.
There are four main areas of costs to be aware of.
- Doctor’s Visits – This can be anywhere from $30 to $200 depending on insurance coverage.
- Blood Tests – Without insurance, this can be up to $1,000 for adequate blood testing.
- Hormone Treatment – Depending on the type of treatment you use, the cost may vary.
- Pills – These are usually covered by prescription insurance and may be anywhere from $10-$120 per month.
- Creams, Gels, & Patches – These are often covered by insurance, but may be more expensive for up to $300 per month.
- Injectables – Injectables are typically covered by insurance and cost anywhere from $30 to $90 per injectable.
- Pellets – Pellets are newer technology and are generally not covered by insurance. The cost may be anywhere from $300 to $500 per insertion which is typically every 3-6 months.
- Prescription Costs – Any prescription copays are typically between $5 and $30 per month.
Additionally, periodic follow-up doctor visits, and possibly follow-up blood testing, will be required while using hormone replacement therapy for women.
FAQs About Women Hormone Replacement