Should You Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Does hormone replacement therapy (HRT) improve your overall quality of life? It’s a question many women who are perimenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal are forced to consider.
How Can You Tell If You Are Perimenopausal or Menopausal?
Perimenopause is when a woman’s ovaries begin to slow their production of estrogen and progesterone, the “female” hormones. This period of transition can last anywhere from five to fifteen years and ends one year after your final menstrual cycle.
Menopause signals the end of a woman’s ability to reproduce – the average age in the United States is 51 but the typical range is 45-55. It is estimated that 5,000 American women enter the menopause stage every day. Your body then remains in a postmenopausal state for the rest of your life.
Menopause is not easy on a woman, no matter the age.
Most doctors are quick to push hormone supplements on women who no longer produce enough hormones on their own.
Many women are quick to snatch them up – willing to take anything to relieve symptoms that are often severe enough to disrupt daily life.
Top 5 symptoms of menopause
1. Wildly fluctuating mood swings and anxiety
2. Debilitating hot flashes that come out of nowhere
3. Sleeplessness and night sweats
4. Inability to control body weight
5. Vaginal dryness and loss of sex drive
Of the 50% of women who experience extreme symptoms, most agree that hormone replacement therapy does ease the symptoms related to menopause. But, are the benefits worth the risk?
There are many myths out there about HRTs and some downright frightening statistics as well. Some of it is true, some of it isn’t.
Pharmaceutical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that women who take HRTs to alleviate the worst of the symptoms should only do so short term – never for longer than five years.
Before you fill that prescription, remember that synthetic creations from a lab might cause more harm than help. As Dr. Al Sears, MD states, “It’s not natural to your body. And it’s not a replacement. Or a therapy.” He believes that an effective hormone replacement therapy is one that simulates the exact hormones your body isn’t producing enough of naturally.
Side Effects of Pharmaceutical HRTs:
• Increase your risk of asthma, blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
• Cause water retention and weight gain.
• Trigger vaginal bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids and gallstones.
• Multiply your cancer risk and make it more difficult to detect existing breast cancer.
Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Dr. Sears recommends Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy – which is often referred to as “natural hormonal therapy” because your body “reads” them just as it does the hormones it produces naturally. Your body doesn’t reject them or experience stress because it recognizes what you’re putting into it…and utilizes it the same way it always has.
A simple test to measure hormone levels currently in your system will tell your doctor what quantity you need to take. Dr. Sears’ website even has a locater to find a doctor who uses Bio-Identical HRTs near you. Some women report relief of their worst symptoms almost immediately.
Some in the scientific community believe bio-identical HRTs are the best method to more accurately monitor hormone levels and treat the woman first and her symptoms second. Critics feel the “correct” hormone levels are difficult to determine so the best route is treating the symptoms first.
The Association of Women for the Advancement of Research and Education (Project Aware) – a website devoted to women who are menopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal – has many valuable resources that further detail bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
Herb and Supplement Options
As with all supplements, the FDA does not regulate or monitor them for safety and effectiveness. It is important to talk with a menopause specialist before taking over-the- counter (OTC) or alternative remedies that may interact poorly with other medication you’re taking or even cause an allergic reaction.
Also, if you have preexisting health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer or migraines you should tell your doctor before taking any hormone replacement therapy – natural or prescribed.
An Individual Choice
Every woman will experience menopause but not every menopause experience is the same. There is no way to predict how your body will react until menopause occurs. If you are one of the fortunate 50% who never suffer with the symptoms, doctors advise that you increase your calcium intake to lower your risk of osteoporosis.
If you are part of the 50% struggling to cope with night sweats, anxiety and more…adding a short term pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy or a bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is something to consider. Maintaining your sanity during this “natural stage of life” is the ultimate goal.