1. What is HRT?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) refers to a hormone based treatment that helps relieve the symptoms of menopause. It restores the hormones that women lose as they reach menopause: oestrogen and progesterone. It is as a result of a drop in the levels of these hormones, that the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause are experienced.
2. Why should I consider taking HRT?
HRT can relieve the symptoms of menopause and reduce your risk of certain illnesses. It can:
- Relieve hot flushes
- Reduce vaginal dryness
- Reduce bladder leaks
- Reduce recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Increase your libido and sex drive
- Improve your bone health and protect you from osteoporosis
- Reduce your risk of bowel cancer
3. When should I start taking HRT?
You should start taking HRT as soon as you start to notice any of the symptoms of menopause. Menopause usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55. If you're a smoker this can happen a year or two earlier. There are also certain things that can cause pre-mature menopause, such as cancer treatments, ovarian failure or surgeries that involve the removal of the ovaries.
4. Will I gain weight if I take HRT?
There is no evidence to suggest that women put on weight because of HRT. Many women can tend to put on weight naturally during menopause, regardless or HRT. Sticking to a healthy eating plan and getting regular exercise can help avoid this unwanted weight gain.
5. Can I get pregnant while taking HRT?
Yes, you can still get pregnant while taking HRT. It is not a contraceptive method and even though your periods may have stopped it is still recommended that you use contraception for two years following your last period, if you're under 50 years of age.
6. Should I take HRT if I've had a hysterectomy?
Yes, there are still benefits to taking HRT if you've had a hysterectomy. If you've had a full hysterectomy an oestrogen only HRT will be more suitable, as without a womb there are no benefits to taking progesterone. If you've had a partial hysterectomy, the standard combined HRT medications are still the right choice, as you may have remaining womb lining.
7. What are the side effects of HRT?
The most common side effects of taking HRT are fluid retention, bloating, breast enlargement or tenderness, headaches, indigestion and depression or mood swings.
8. What are the risks with taking HRT?
HRT can slightly increase your risk of developing a number of conditions, including breast cancer, blood clots (embolisms and deep vein thrombosis), ovarian cancer and stroke. However, most experts agree than on a short-term basis the benefits far outweigh the risks.
9. Do alternative therapies work?
There are some herbal remedies that contain natural oestrogen, like soya and red clover, and there are a wide range of complementary and alternative therapies advertised. However, there is no strong evidence to support their effectiveness and you can experience adverse side effects with these, including negative interactions with other medications.
10. Are there any other medications I can take without oestrogen?
There is another hormonal treatment called Livial, which contains a synthetic steroid called Tibolone. It acts in a similar way to oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones, without actually containing them and can also help alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
11. How do I take HRT?
You can take HRT in a tablet form, via a patch, via an implant, or you can use an oestrogen gel. If your symptoms are related to vaginal dryness only you can also use local HRT, such as vaginal creams, vaginal rings and pessaries placed in the vagina.
12. How can I get HRT?
If you're considering HRT for the first time, you should speak to your GP. In some cases, particularly if you're at high risk for breast cancer, they may want you to see a menopause specialist before starting you on your prescription. If you're already taking HRT, you can fill in our online consultation and order your medication online now.
13. How long should I take HRT for
Most women take HRT for two to five years, until the symptoms of menopause pass. It's not recommended to take it for longer than five years. It's also advised that when you're ready to finish HRT, you gradually decrease your dosage rather than stop abruptly.
14. Can I get a relapse after stopping?
Some women may have a relapse of menopause symptoms after they stop, but these normally disappear within a few months. If they carry on for longer than this, or are very severe, you may need to speak to your doctor about restarting HRT at a lower dosage.
15. Can anyone use HRT?
HRT is not recommended for women who:
- Are pregnant
- Have had, or are at high risk of having, breast cancer, ovarian cancer or womb cancer
- Have had, or are at high risk of, blood clots
- Have a history of stroke or heart disease
- Have high blood pressure that has been untreated
- Have liver disease or impaired liver function