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Unraveling the Confusion Around HRT

One of the more controversial issues regarding women’s health is whether to take hormones to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Recent studies show that today’s bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not at all comparable to the synthetic drugs of days gone by. That has led to a more positive view of HRT. And that’s great, because it can benefit many women.

But understanding HRT can be a minefield. Here are some things to consider if you’re wondering if it’s right for you. 

HRT Can Be the Way to Go

Live long enough and you will enter menopause. It’s a perfectly normal thing that can make for a perfectly awful few years. The majority of women will have symptoms from insomnia, brain fog, vaginal atrophy, and joint pain to depression, mood disturbances, hot flashes, and anxiety attacks. None of that is fun.

HRT is a safe treatment for menopause symptoms, yet some doctors are afraid to offer it and some women are afraid to try it. But rest assured, this is not your mother’s HRT. The Women’s Health Initiative Studies warned against the therapy and seemingly the whole world stop using estrogen replacements at the same moment. The study proved to be inadequate, but the fears it instilled still exist, and many women are not getting the treatment they need. The latest research shows that HRT does not cause breast cancer and may actually prolong a woman’s life. Some studies have shown that HRT decreases the risk for heart disease by up to 30 percent.

That’s all good news, yet lurking in the shadows are new problems. 

Step Away From the Internet

The internet contains much confusing and conflicting information, and after going down an online rabbit hole women are often left feeling desperate and unsure of their treatment options. Natural treatments seem like the right way to go, but even HRT derived from plant sources are still synthesized in a lab. On the flip side, some synthetic hormones are derived from pregnant mares, which can also be classified as natural. 

The term “bioidentical” is also misleading, and in the United States, bioidentical is used for both FDA-approved-and-tested hormones and over-the-counter products. There is a push to start using the term “body identical.” Those hormones would be molecularly identical to a woman’s own and available only with a doctor’s prescription — which is certainly where you should start any attempt to treat your menopause symptoms outside of lifestyle changes like cleaning up your diet and getting daily exercise.

Talk to Your Doctor

All women need regular medical checkups, but a perimenopausal women might want to look for a doctor who specializes in caring for women in their middle years. Finding a health care professional who focuses on menopausal women can be challenging, but start by asking your general practitioner and then start asking your friends. 

And whatever you do, don’t experiment with hormones you buy online. Talking to your doctor is the only way to know whether you’re a good candidate for HRT, and the internet is notoriously full of treatments that are not regulated by any agency. The HRT you will get with a physician’s guidance has undergone rigorous testing to ensure effectiveness, content, purity, and safety labeling. What’s more, even the safest drug might not be right for you.

This article was co-written by Katarina Wilk and Amanda Thebe. Wilk is the author of Perimenopower. Buy the book and follow her on InstagramThebe is a personal trainer and author of the forthcoming book Menopausing So HardFollow her on Instagram.

Photo: Lumina

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