In the months leading up to menopause, women often notice irregular periods, hot flashes, and night sweats. These symptoms can vary based on factors like age and genetics. Over time, more symptoms occur, including reduced libido, acne, weight changes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, dry skin, and more. Some symptoms are severe and impact social life and relationships. Menopause can even lead to bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. These symptoms last an average of 4-5 years but can persist longer.
Understanding hormone replacement
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medical regimen that replaces female hormones. Estrogen, the primary hormone in women, can drop below 30 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Other hormones like progesterone and testosterone fluctuate, creating these unwanted symptoms. HRT can help women through a difficult period, reducing symptoms and improving overall health. A doctor can prescribe HRT in pill, patch, injection, or suppository form. The patient will try the procedure over a few months and adjust the medication accordingly.
MHT vs HRT
Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is a specialized from of HRT and these terms should not be used interchangeably. In other words, not all HRT is MHT. With MHT, the doctor considers age, health, and specific symptoms. The result is more customized therapy, often with lower doses of estrogen only if the patient’s uterus is not intact. Progesterone and estrogen are essential for women with the uterus intact. For perimenopause and menopause symptoms, the doses will also slightly change. The intention is to lower the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, HRT replaces estrogen and other hormones on a broader scale. In addition to treating menopausal women with severely low estrogen, HRT also treats primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) and early onset menopause, needing much higher levels of estrogen to do so.
When should you consider MHT?
The symptoms of menopause can subside over time. Some women can easily cope with the symptoms and live a fulfilling life. However, others can struggle with menopause, especially if the symptoms are severe. If the symptoms affect the quality of life, see a doctor to consider MHT. Common examples are lack of sleep, poor sexual relationships, depression, and vaginal dryness. Menopause happens naturally but can be accelerated by hysterectomies or POI. The doctor will first look at all hormone levels including testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), estrogen, and progesterone. From there, the patient tries MHT on a limited basis. The therapy can help over several months to regulate hormone production.
A smoother menopause journey
Menopause is a natural process, but the symptoms can be unbearable. Some women begin seeing the signs of menopause as early as age 45, which can affect work and social life. However, this journey does not have to be difficult. A doctor can provide the right MHT to improve symptoms with a lowered risk of side effects.