What is HRT?
Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is a treatment used to relieve the symptoms experienced during the menopause. The symptoms of menopause are caused by a significant change in the amount of the hormone, estrogen, released by the body. Hormone levels in the body are delicately balanced; they are the chemical messengers that travel throughout the body controlling complex processes such as growth, metabolism and fertility. They have wide ranging effects on the body including influencing the immune system and even mood and behaviour. The change in estrogen levels can have a knock-on effect on other hormones causing wide ranging symptoms of varying severity. HRT replaces the hormones affected by the menopause helping to restore hormonal balance in the body.
How does HRT work?
The main hormone in HRT is estrogen. This is because it replaces the deficiency of estrogen caused by the menopause. In addition, some HRT preparations will also include progesterone or progestogen (synthetic progesterone). Progesterone naturally occurs in the body and is mainly responsible for maintaining the health of the lining of the uterus. If a woman with a uterus uses HRT, then progesterone / progestogen will help protect the lining against over-stimulation by estrogen. Consequently, if HRT is recommended then a combined HRT treatment is used with estrogen and either cyclical progesterone/progestogen or continuous progesterone/progestogen (no bleed HRT).
The wide range of types and routes of oestrogen and progestogen allows flexibility and enables treatment to be personalised.
Why take HRT?
The symptoms experienced during the menopause are unique to each individual, our articles, What are the symptoms of menopause? and Hormones and menopause symptoms provide more information about these symptoms that include night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, memory problems, aches and pains, reduced libido and vaginal dryness. Each woman will have different issues and experience them to differing levels of severity, therefore finding the right treatment programme is essential.
HRT is proven to relieve these symptoms, so it is the treatment of choice if these symptoms are troublesome. If HRT does not work, is contra-indicated (ie medically inappropriate) or is not an individual’s preference, there are still other ways to manage these symptoms.
How long does it take to work?
There is no predictable timescale but it will normally take a few weeks until the initial benefits of HRT are felt. The full effects may take 6-12 weeks, as hormone levels settle and symptoms continue to improve. At Hormone Health, we like to review patients after 3 months and then every 6-12 months after this.
We ask that you have blood tests prior to being seen at follow up consultations. This is so that we can see how your hormone levels are on the medication you have been prescribed. The dose of your HRT may need to be adjusted at your consultation, depending on these results and your symptoms.