If you’re a woman, you’ll likely go through menopause – the change in life when fertility ends and your period ceases. You may have watched your mother struggle with symptoms such as hot flashes, foggy memory, and frustrating weight gain. You’re discovering there are aspects of menopause she didn’t discuss: vaginal dryness, night sweats, and diminished libido.
At one time, hormone therapy was the default treatment for symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause – the years leading up to menopause often characterized by the infamous, uncomfortable symptoms. Menopause itself is 12 consecutive months without a period. You usually experience perimenopause in your mid- to late-40s, with the average age of menopause being 51 years old.
Hormone therapy is now prescribed more judiciously after research showed a small, but significant, increase in the risk of stroke, breast cancer, and heart attack associated with it. Whether or not hormone therapy is right for you comes down to individual factors, including your risk factors and personal medical history.
Hormone fluctuations cause symptoms
During perimenopause and menopause, your levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate – sometimes wildly. You don’t start with a peak level and then feel it diminish – it fluctuates up and down until you eventually stop having your period altogether.
Because of those hormone fluctuations, you experience symptoms – from hot flashes and mood swings to disturbed sleep. Your period may be heavy some months, go on for what seems like forever, or disappear for months at a time. Menopause and perimenopause are unpredictable times, but that doesn’t mean you’re abnormal. Abnormal is the norm.
Hormone therapy to the rescue
Hormone therapy is quite effective in treating hot flashes, especially ones that interfere with your daily life. You may also opt for hormone therapy if you have severe vaginal dryness and atrophy, in which your sex life and daily comfort are disturbed. Hormone therapy can prevent bone loss, too, thus reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
Hormone therapy isn’t for everyone
We here at Abundant Life Healthcare don’t just prescribe hormone therapy for any woman with irregular periods and a few hot flashes. It’s important to consider the potential risks that hormone therapy can present. In some women, with a history of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, hormone therapy poses a possible risk to their health. If you’re a breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer survivor, hormone therapy may also be contraindicated as it could increase your risk of recurrence.
Hormone therapy isn’t a one-size fits all
Hormone therapy comes in many forms, too. We work hard to determine which forms and types are best for your needs.
If you have your uterus, you benefit from a combination of estrogen and progestin to protect you from endometrial cancer. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, estrogen alone is fine as you can’t get endometrial cancer.
Vaginal creams, skin creams, patches, oral pills and tablets, vaginal rings, and nasal sprays are all ways in which hormones are offered. We determine which will be the most effective, but carry the least risk for your long-term health.
Hormone therapy may very well be the right way for you to tolerate perimenopause and menopause symptoms. Hormone therapy can’t halt the process, however; menopause is a natural progression in life. Get an individualized assessment with Dr. Jean-Gilles by calling our office or scheduling an appointment online.