Menopause is a time in a woman's life when her menstrual cycle stops permanently. When menopause begins, ovaries run out of eggs and the hormones deplete. The lower levels of estrogen cause several immediate symptoms along with a higher risk of long-term medical issues. If you are going through menopause, hormone replacement therapy can minimize or even eliminate your symptoms.
Symptoms of menopause
Menopause has many immediate symptoms. These include:
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Thinning skin
- Painful intercourse
Long-term medical issues caused by reduced reproductive hormones include a higher risk of bone fractures, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
Types of HRT
There are two common types of HRT that you can take to reduce your symptoms of menopause. These include systemic estrogen and low-dose vaginal products. Systemic hormone therapy is an estrogen pill, gel, cream, skin patch, or spray. Low–dose vaginal products are a type of HRT specifically targeted for women who are mostly experiencing vaginal symptoms such as dryness and painful intercourse. These come in tablet, cream, and ring form.
Pros & Cons of systemic therapy
Hormone replacement therapy has many pros and cons. These depend on the type of HRT you are taking. Systemic hormone therapy is no longer routinely recommended long-term, but it does have benefits if you take it long term. These include a reduced risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. The systematic estrogen also helps with hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats.
When women are prescribed systemic estrogen, they are usually given progesterone along with it. This is because estrogen will stimulate the lining of the uterus when not coupled with the progesterone, which increases the risk of uterine cancer. Unfortunately, the estrogen and progesterone combo has its own risks. In clinical trials, women who took the combination had an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, and blood clots. Risks of the systemic therapy alone include stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, and pulmonary embolism.
Pros and cons of low-dose vaginal products
The low-dose vaginal products will reduce or eliminate the vaginal dryness and painful intercourse that comes with menopause. These low-dose products only release about one tenth of the amount of estrogen as the systemic estrogen. The lower dose won't relieve you of the night sweats, mood swings, and other uncomfortable side effects, but it doesn't come with all of the drawbacks either. The low-dose products still have some risks. If you have a history of blood clots or currently have breast cancer you shouldn't use these products. However, without a history of these issues, they shouldn't be a problem.
Which type is right for you?
If you are suffering from many of the side effects of menopause, ask your doctor about systemic therapy. While long-term risks are real, you can take it for a short time and see if the side effects stay at bay after switching to a lower dose in the future. If vaginal side effects are your main problem, you should start with the low-dose vaginal problems and see how you feel.
If you want to try natural alternatives before hormone replacement therapies, there are a few things you can try first. Stick to a healthy diet. Healthy eating will balance your hormone levels and give you the vitamins and minerals you need to supplement the deficiencies that increase your menopause symptoms. Exercise will boost hormone production. It will also offset symptoms like the loss of libido and constant fatigue. There are also herbal supplements that can add estrogen to your body. You will want to take phytoestrogenic herbs such as:
- Dong quai
- Black cohosh
It's important not to ignore your symptoms of menopause. You can try natural alternatives first if you prefer. However, even with HRTs, a healthy diet and proper exercise is important. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to see if he or she recommends systemic therapy or low-dose vaginal products. For more information on hormone replacement therapy, check out http://www.genemedics.com.