Menopause is the natural progression of a woman’s body as she matures. Unfortunately, menopause comes with many side effects that can take both a physical and emotional toll. One common treatment to help menopausal women cope with their symptoms is bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). This treatment, however, is not without controversy. Before deciding on BHRT for menopause symptoms, consider its further effects.
What Are Bio-Identical Hormones?
The term bio-identical indicates that it is identical in chemical structure to human hormones, even though derived from plant material. This identical structure yields normal function and breakdown through the body’s standard pathways. When used as a treatment for hormone dysfunction, we refer to this as BHRT or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
What Conditions Can Be Successfully Treated with BHRT?
Hot flashes / night sweats
Decrease in libido
The ideal process for achieving hormone balance begins with assessing hormone levels. This is often done with a combination of saliva and blood studies, along with a complete evaluation of signs and symptoms.
It is important that a woman partners with a health care practitioner specifically trained is this type of therapy, such as Dr. Neumann. He is able to prescribe custom hormones in the ideal dosage and form to optimize health.
Why Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement?
Doctors often consider hormone therapy because one of the most significant changes that accompanies menopause is a decrease in the body’s estrogen production. Hormone replacement therapy replaces the estrogen that the body no longer produces. If a woman is menopausal but still has her uterus, she may also be prescribed progesterone to stimulate uterine lining growth.
Benefits of BHRT
Menopause has as many different symptoms and side effects as there are women who experience it. How much hormone therapy can help depends entirely on each individual woman’s circumstances and overall health. Healthier women, or women who have experienced early menopause, are more likely to benefit from hormone therapy. Particularly younger women experiencing early menopause benefit because the risk of negative side effects is balanced by the decreased risk from osteoporosis and heart disease.
Doctors also prescribe low-dosage hormone therapy that can counteract many of the uncomfortable side effects of menopause, such as vaginal dryness and urinary tract discomfort. The benefit to low-dosage is that it is not absorbed readily into the body, so it minimizes the risk of negative side effects. At the same time, however, it does nothing for hot flashes or for protection against osteoporosis.
BHRT can alleviate symptoms caused by the natural decrease in production of hormones;
Re-establish hormone balance;
Provide protective benefits which were originally provided by naturally occurring hormones
Problems and Risks of BHRT
Risks from hormone therapy vary from woman to woman, but BHRT does ultimately increase dangers of certain diseases and disorders across the board. Most significantly, hormone therapy has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer – the leading cause of death in women over the age of 50. Women who are also on progesterone tend to experience lower risk, but that is also influenced heavily by the woman’s overall health and condition. The starting point for hormone therapy also matters – starting it closer to actual menopause reduces the risks, for example, compared to starting it much earlier.
If you are worried about the risk of breast cancer or heart disease – especially if you have experienced it before or have a family history of either condition – you may want to avoid hormone therapy unless your doctor recommends it. Additionally, it may not be necessary for women who don’t experience uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, or those who started menopause naturally after the age of 45.
Dr. Neumann is happy to discuss bio-identical hormone replacement therapy in more detail during your consultation. Call the office at 734.847.4700 today.