The human body produces hormones to control various organ functions. The hormone estrogen plays an important role in women’s reproductive organs. When a woman’s body stops producing estrogen, she ceases to menstruate. This is called menopause. The process of menopause usually takes place gradually over a number of years.
Hot flashes, vaginal dryness and the onset of osteoporosis (the slow loss of calcium by bones) are physical side effects of menopause. Many emotional changes such as nervousness, fatigue or depression are also common. To ease the side effects of menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might be recommended by your doctor. Synthetic hormones are substituted for what your body no longer produces. HRT is not without risks and is not recommended for every woman.
Today, HRT differs greatly from the large doses of estrogen that were given to women until the 1970s. The lowest effective dose of estrogen is combined with progesterone. A large dose of progesterone may be given once a month, or a small dose of progesterone may be given daily.
Estrogen replacement therapy can be started during menopause if the woman is experiencing severe symptoms or if her ovaries have been removed.
THE POSITIVE SIDE OF HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
- Hot flashes occur less often and are less severe.
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort are relieved.
- The progression of osteoporosis may be delayed.
- Depression and fatigue occur less often.
- The risk of heart disease and stroke are decreased.
- It protects against uterine cancer.
- It may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
- A menstrual cycle may occur.
- Use of estrogen by itself has been liked to cancer of the endometrium.
- Estrogen alone can cause swollen breasts, nausea, high blood pressure and fluid retention.
ESTROGEN THERAPY SHOULD NOT BE UNDERTAKEN IF YOU HAVE:
- cancer of the breast or uterus.
- estrogen-dependent ovarian cancer.
- a history of blood clots in the legs, pelvis or lungs.
- gallstones or gall bladder disease.
- large uterine fibroids.