What is HRT?
HRT is a safe and effective treatment for most people going through menopause and perimenopause. Your doctor will discuss any risks with you. HRT involves using oestrogen to replace your body's own levels around the time of menopause. There are different types and doses of HRT. Using the right dose and type usually means your symptoms improve.
Oestrogen comes as:
- Skin patches
- A gel or spray to put on the skin
If you have a womb (uterus), you also need to take progesterone to protect your womb lining from the effects of oestrogen. Taking oestrogen and progesterone is called combined HRT.
Progesterone comes as:
- Patches, as part of a combined patch with oestrogen
- IUS (intrauterine system, or coil)
If you have low sex drive because of menopause and HRT does not improve it, you may be offered testosterone.
Benefits of HRT
The main benefit of HRT is that it can help relieve most menopause and perimenopause symptoms, including hot flushes, brain fog, joint pains, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. Hot flushes or night sweats often improve within a few weeks. Other symptoms like mood changes and vaginal dryness can take a few months to improve. HRT can also reduce your risk of hormone-related health problems, including osteoporosis and heart disease.
Risks of HRT
The risks of taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are small and usually outweighed by the benefits. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks before you start taking HRT.
The main risks of HRT are:
- Breast cancer
HRT slightly increases the risk of breast cancer. The risk is higher the longer you take HRT and the older you are. It falls again after you stop taking it.
- Blood clots
HRT tablets can increase the risk of blood clots, but the risk is still very low. HRT patches, sprays, and gels do not increase the risk of blood clots.
HRT slightly increases the risk of stroke for women over 60. The risk is higher if they start HRT late into menopause and use combined HRT.
- Other risks
Other potential risks of HRT include gallbladder disease, liver disease, and endometrial cancer.
It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of HRT with your doctor before you start taking it. They will be able to assess your individual risk factors and help you to choose the right type and dose of HRT for you.