A hormone is a chemical substance made by a gland or organ to regulate various body functions. To help control the symptoms of menopause some women can take hormones, called menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). MHT used to be called hormone replacement therapy or HRT. Some women should not use MHT. There are many things to learn about hormones before you make the choice that's best for you.
The natural hormones Susan uses are estrogen and progesterone made from plants such as soy or yams. Some people also call them bio-identical hormones because they are supposed to be chemically the same as the hormones naturally made by a woman's body. So-called natural hormones are put together(compounded)by a compounding pharmacist. This pharmacist follows a natural formula decided on by your doctor.
Drug companies also make estrogens and progesterone from plants like corn, soy and yams. Some of these are also chemically identical to the hormones made by your body. You get these from any pharmacy with a prescription from your doctor.
One difference between the natural hormones prepared by a compounding pharmacist and those made by Pharmaceutical Manufacturers is that compounded natural hormones are not regulated and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, we don't know much about how safe or effective they are or how the quality varies from batch to batch. Hormones made by drug companies are regulated and approved by the FDA.
There are also natural treatments for the symptoms of menopause available over-the-counter, without a prescription. Some of these are also made from soy or yams. They are not regulated or approved by the FDA.What's right for me? There is no one size fits all answer for all women who are trying to decide whether to use menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). You have to look at your own needs and weigh your own risks.
Ask yourself and your doctor these questions:
- How much are you bothered
by menopausal symptoms such
as hot flashes or vaginal
- Like many women your hot
flashes or night sweats will
likely go away over time,
but vaginal dryness may not.
MHT can help if your symptoms
are troubling you.
- Are you at risk for developing
osteoporosis? Estrogen might
protect bone mass while you
use it. However, there are
other Drug Store Prescriptions that can protect bones without the same
risk as MHT.
- Do you have a history of
heart disease? Using estrogen
and progestin can increase
- Do you or others in your
family have a history of breast
cancer? If you have a family
history of breast cancer,
check with your doctor about
- Do you have a medical history of
gall bladder, frequent
bladder infections, bladder disease or high
triglycerides? Some health experts believe using a
patch will not make your triglyceride
(a type of fat in the blood)level
go up or increase your chance
of gall bladder problems. However, estrogen replacement therapy, or estrogen pills may elevate triglyceride levela.
- Do you have liver disease
or a history of stroke or
blood clots in your veins?
MHT might not be safe for
you to use.
- Are you over age 65 and thinking about using MHT to prevent dementia? Estrogen and progestin could actually increase your risk of dementia. Estrogen alone might do that also.
If you are already using menopausal hormone therapy and think you would like to stop, first ask your health care provider how to do that. Some doctors suggest tapering off slowly.
Whatever decision you make now about using MHT is not final. You can start or end the treatment at any time. If you stop, your risks will probably lessen over time, but so will the protection. Discuss your decision about menopausal hormone therapy each year with your doctor at your annual checkup.
Don't forget at your health checkup to ask your doctor about any new female study results. Research on menopause is ongoing. Scientists are looking for answers to questions such as:
- How long can a woman safely use menopausal hormone therapy?
- Are some types of estrogen or progesterone safer than others?
- Is one form of hormone therapy (patch, pill, or cream, for example) better than another?
- Is MHT safer if you start it around the time of menopause instead of when you are older?
For now, we know that each woman is different, and the decision for each woman will probably also be different. But, almost every study gives women and their doctors more information to answer the question: Is menopausal natural hormone therapy good for me?