Medically Reviewed By Dr. Kimberly Evans

Older Couple EmbracingMenopause is a major milestone in many women’s lives, but one that can come with mixed feelings. While it marks the end of the reproductive years and the start of a new phase of life, the transitional phase can cause some uncomfortable symptoms. From hot flashes and night sweats to vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive, menopause can be a lot to manage. Hormone replacement therapy or HRT is one option for reducing symptoms and improving quality of life during menopause.

What is Menopause?

As your body changes and you approach your 40s and 50s, you may be wondering how you even know if you are experiencing menopause. Irregular periods, mood swings, and hot flashes can all be signs that it is near. You are considered to be in menopause after 12 months without a menstrual period. However, symptoms can persist for several years as your hormones fluctuate.

What Causes Menopause?

As you get older, your body naturally begins producing less estrogen, which is a hormone that helps to regulate your period. Your ovaries also have a limited number of eggs, so once they have all been released, you stop menstruating.

Some women experience premature menopause before age 40, which can be due to genetics or other health conditions. In addition, if you have undergone chemotherapy, radiation, or a hysterectomy, this can also affect your hormones and trigger menopause.

Symptoms of Menopause

It is important to talk to your gynecologist about changes not just with your menstrual cycle, but also in your overall wellbeing. Vaginal dryness and itching can be due to a yeast infection, but they can be symptoms of menopause as well. If you are experiencing sudden mood swings or have noticed a drop in your sex drive, this might also be related to decreased estrogen production. Dr. Evans takes the time to listen to all of your concerns to determine whether menopause may be the cause.

Some common symptoms to pay attention to include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair
  • Changes in sexual desire

Do not be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about these issues. Dr. Evans can let you know whether they may be caused by menopause or another condition and work with you to manage symptoms and reduce discomfort.

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?

When menopause interferes with your quality of life, it is normal to want a solution that can help you get back to normal. Hormone replacement therapy or HRT may provide some relief. It is a treatment option that replaces the estrogen – and sometimes other hormones as well – that your body has stopped producing during menopause. Balancing your hormones can leave you feeling happier, healthier, and more energized – including in the bedroom.

Types of HRT

There are two main types of HRT: estrogen only and combination therapy. There are several factors that determine which may be a good fit for you. For example, whether you have had a hysterectomy and the type of symptoms you are experiencing.

  • Estrogen-only HRT is often used if you have had your uterus removed or are primarily concerned with vaginal dryness, itchiness, or painful intercourse. An increase in estrogen can stimulate the body to naturally boost lubrication.
  • Combination therapy uses both estrogen and progesterone (or progestin, a synthetic progesterone). Estrogen alone can thicken the endometrial lining of the uterus (which normally sheds when you menstruate) and increase the risk of uterine cancer. Progesterone can lower this risk and work in conjunction with estrogen to alleviate symptoms.

How is Hormone Replacement Therapy Administered?

There are many different forms of HRT, which allows you to find what works for your lifestyle and preferences. Each form has its pros and cons, so talk things through with your gynecologist. Options may include:

  • Pills
  • Patches
  • Pellets
  • Topical creams or sprays
  • Vaginal rings, creams, or tablets

Pills may be taken daily, while patches and creams may slowly release hormones over several days. The BioTE® hormone pellet is placed under the skin and administers a consistent dose of hormone therapy over several weeks. If you are worried about missing a dose, not applying enough, or using too much, hormone pellets can be advantageous.

What are the Benefits of HRT?

If you are bothered by ongoing menopause symptoms that are negatively impacting your life, hormone replacement therapy may provide some relief. By replacing lost estrogen and improving hormone balance, it can help cut down on the number and severity of hot flashes and night sweats, reduce vaginal dryness and discomfort, decrease mood swings, and improve sexual relations.

Another potential benefit of HRT is the prevention of osteoporosis. Menopause causes estrogen levels to decrease, which may contribute to estrogen deficiency. This has been linked to osteoporosis risk. Without enough estrogen, the body begins resorbing bone more quickly than it forms, and bones can become weaker and more brittle. Hormone therapy can help protect against bone loss.

Learn More About Sexual Wellness

Dr. Evans collaborated with other sexual wellness physicians to publish a book that provides the wisdom and practical advice of seven separate physicians who understand the most up-to-date science of sex.

Dr. Kimberly Evans describes how in her practice of gynecology, she improves sexual wellness and pleasure by skillfully managing the hormones of women and their partners. Hormones affect the growth and function of every body tissue; so this step is important for optimal sexual wellness.

Learn More

What are the Risks of HRT?

There are many benefits of HRT during menopause, but it is also important to understand the risks. Treatment is tailored to your unique situation, and everyone experiences results differently. However, many women find that the benefits outweigh the risks. Dr. Evans follows up regularly with patients to monitor their response to treatment.

Side effects of HRT may include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Irritability
  • Spotting

More serious risks include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke

You can reduce your risk of complications by taking the appropriate dosage of hormones using a delivery method that works for you and allows you to maintain a comfortable balance. Only take HRT as long as necessary to manage symptoms, and follow up regularly with your doctor, especially if you experience any changes in your health.

When Should I Start Taking Hormone Replacement Therapy?

There is not a set time when women should begin HRT, but it is often recommended within six years of starting menopause. However, there are women who start treatment ten or more years after menopause and see beneficial results. It all depends on your body and how you are affected.

Women who have had a hysterectomy may start taking HRT to bridge the gap until their body would have naturally begun menopause. Replacing lost estrogen can help reduce the risk of other health conditions while also managing early menopause symptoms.
You may begin feeling the benefits of treatment within several days as estrogen levels rebuild. It can take two to three months to feel the full effects as your hormone levels balance out.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

This will vary from one person to the next. On average, many women experience menopause symptoms for about five years, but they tend to decrease over time. Other women have symptoms that interfere with their quality of life for several years and continue using HRT to manage the frequency and severity. Once your symptoms have subsided or become manageable without medication, your doctor will discuss ending treatment. There may be other options to continue enhancing vaginal comfort and sexual relations and reducing hot flashes.

How Much Does Hormone Replacement Therapy Cost?

There is not a standard price for HRT because there are so many variables. Factors that may influence cost include:

  • The type of treatment (estrogen only or combination therapy)
  • The delivery method (pill, patch, pellet, cream, ring, etc.)
  • How frequently it is used
  • The duration of treatment
  • Insurance coverage

Dr. Evans can provide more specific pricing based on your individual situation, how HRT will be used, and what your insurance covers.

How Do I Know Which Hormone Therapy is Right for Me?

Before beginning any type of hormone replacement therapy, Dr. Evans will take the time to understand your goals, symptoms, overall health, and any concerns you might have. She will discuss which options may be a good fit for you and allow you to get back to feeling like yourself again. Treatment is personalized to your specific needs, and your dosage or delivery method may need to be adjusted to achieve the right balance and minimize any side effects.

Navigating Menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy

Just because you are experiencing menopause does not mean you cannot be comfortable, maintain an active lifestyle, and enjoy regular intimacy. Hormone replacement therapy can help you overcome symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings that are interfering with your quality of life.

Take back control as you go through this transitional time in your life. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Evans at Sugar Land Medical Spa to discuss whether HRT is the right choice for you, and what you can expect from treatment.