Some women can use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to help control the symptoms of menopause. (Also called "Menopausal Hormone Therapy or MHT)
This involves taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone. (Women who don't have a uterus anymore take just estrogen.)
HRT can be very good at helping with moderate to severe symptoms of the menopausal transition and preventing bone loss. But HRT also has some risks, especially if used for a long time.
HRT can help with menopause by:
- Reducing hot flashes, night sweats, and related problems such as poor sleep and irritability
- Treating vaginal symptoms, such as dryness and discomfort, and related effects, such as pain during sex
- Slowing bone loss
- Possibly easing mood swings and mild depressive symptoms (MHT is not an antidepressant medication — talk to your doctor if you are having signs of depression.)
For some women, HRT may increase their chances of:
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Breast cancer
- Gall bladder disease
Research into the risks and benefits of HRT continues. For example, a recent study suggests that the low-dose patch form of HRT may not have the possible risk of stroke that other forms can have.
Talk with your doctor about the positives and negatives of HRT based on your medical history and age. Keep in mind, too, that you may have symptoms when you stop HRT.
You also can talk with your doctor about treatments other than HRT that can help deal with specific symptoms on our Menopause symptom relief and treatments page or prevent bone loss.
Keep in mind when considering HRT that:
- Once a woman reaches menopause, HRT is recommended only as a short-term treatment.
- Doctors very rarely recommend HRT to prevent certain chronic diseases like osteoporosis.
- Women who have gone through menopause should not take HRT to prevent heart disease.
- HRT should not be used to prevent memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer's disease.
HRT can cause side effects.
Call your doctor if you develop any of these problems:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Breast tenderness or swelling
- Mood changes
You should not use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) if you:
- May be pregnant
- Have problems with vaginal bleeding
- Have had certain kinds of cancers (such as breast and uterine cancer)
- Have had a stroke or heart attack
- Have had blood clots
- Have liver disease
- Have heart disease
If you choose HRT, experts recommend that you:
- Use it at the lowest dose that helps
- Use it for the shortest time needed
Reference: Department of Health and Human Services
Last updated April 20, 2017