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Estrogen is important, because it prepares the female body for fertilization. It also controls how your body uses calcium, and raises good cholesterol in the blood. Estrogen therapy is advised for women who had a hysterectomy, a surgery to remove the uterus.
When a woman stops menstruating her hormone levels fall, which causes a variety of negative symptoms including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and in some cases osteoporosis. Hormone therapy replaces the hormones your body no longer makes. Studies show hormone therapy is one of the most effective ways to address menopausal symptoms. The largest benefit of hormone therapy in women is reduction of menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, sleep deprivation, vaginal dryness and anxiety. Hormone therapy has also been used by women for several years to address the signs of aging, and has also been used in cancer treatment.
Your doctor will build a customized treatment schedule based off of your specific condition, medical history, and other factors. If you are in the beginning stages of menopause, your doctor may prescribe taking estrogen and progesterone together known as cyclic hormone therapy. Estrogen is first taken in pill or patch form for 25 days. Progesterone is then added around the 10 to 14 day mark. Estrogen and progesterone are then taken together for the remaining 25 days. Then the patient will stop taking hormones for 3 to 5 days.
For over 60 years women have been using hormone therapy to address the symptoms of menopause. The first type of treatment for menopausal symptoms was developed in the 1890s and consisted of herbs. Ayerst Laboratories began marketing Premarin in 1942, which became the number one form of estrogen replacement therapy in the U.S. Today hormone therapy is used to not only treat menopausal symptoms, but also for anti-aging and cancer treatment.
You can take estrogen in daily pill form or wear a patch. Estrogen is also available in gel, spray and vaginal ring form. Progesterone can be taken in pill form, by skin patch, or with vaginal cream.
What to Expect
You may experience monthly bleeding with cyclical hormone therapy. You may experience side effects from hormone therapy including mood changes, headaches, breast tenderness and nausea.
Risks & Side Effects
Recent studies have shown women taking hormone replacement therapy have a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) conducted a 15 year study which tracked the health of over 161,800 healthy, postmenopausal women. The study found that women who took the combination therapy of estrogen and progesterone had an increased risk of heart disease. You may want to avoid hormone therapy if you have health conditions like blood clots, cancer, heart or liver disease, have had a heart attack, are pregnant or have had a stroke. Side effects of hormone therapy can include bloating, breast swelling or tenderness, headaches, mood changes, nausea, and vaginal bleeding.