Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treats menopause symptoms by replacing the hormones that are missing with age. There are several different ways in which you can take these hormones depending on your symptoms, age, health and whether or not you still have a womb. We can help you choose the right treatment for your symptoms, if suitable for you.
HRT treatments work by replacing one or two of the main hormones that are lost during menopause. Oestrogen is the main hormone that is lost with age and is part of all HRT treatments. For most women, progesterone is prescribed in combination with oestrogen to protect the health of the womb.
For most women, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. Although there are some risks associated with HRT treatment, they’re usually very small and depend on which type of treatment you take and your general health. HRT treatment can also lower your risk of developing brittle bones (osteoporosis) which is more common after menopause.
Being obese or having more than three alcoholic drinks per week puts you at greater risk of developing breast cancer than does HRT treatment.
HRT treatments can either be taken as tablets, or through the skin as either a gel or a patch. In some cases, the HRT treatment will come as a tablet that you insert into your vagina.
It’s important to know that HRT medicines are not a contraceptive and don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections.
You need to continue using contraception for two years after your last period, if this happens before you are 50 years old. You need to continue using contraception for one year after your last period, if this happens after you are 50 years old.
When taking HRT treatment, you might experience breast pain and tenderness, or vaginal bleeding. Some women also experience leg cramps, backache, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea or bloating. The treatment can also make you feel depressed or anxious. Which side effects you experience can depend on whether you are prescribed oestrogen on its own or in combination with progesterone.
If you’re prescribed patches, you might also experience irritated, itchy skin and a rash where the patch is applied.
Any side effects should ease over time but it’s important that you let us know if you’re experiencing any severe side effects.
For full information of a medicine’s side effects and how to take it, it’s important to read the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with your medicine.
HRT treatments typically improve your symptoms gradually over time. We will contact you after two months to check how you’re doing and to see if the treatment is working for you.
It’s important that you tell us which other medicines you’re taking — whether they’re prescription or medicines you’ve bought without a prescription. You must also tell us about any other health conditions you have. We need to know so that we only prescribe HRT treatment if suitable for you.
Your symptoms should improve after using this treatment for three months. If they are no better after three months please let us know. If your symptoms are getting worse, please get in touch.
There are ways that you can help to manage menopause symptoms if you decide that you don’t want HRT treatment. Eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise, both aerobic and strength building, will help you manage your symptoms and protect your bone health.
It’s also important that you get enough sleep and limit your alcohol intake to the recommended amount - a maximum of 14 units a week. To help manage your mood and anxiety, talking therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help.
It’s very important that you have regular breast, bowel and cervical screening through your GP.
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Page last reviewed by: Dr. Christina Hennessey 21/06/2021