Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her period stops. It is a normal part of aging. In the years before and during menopause, the levels of female hormones can go up and down. This can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, pain during sex, and vaginal dryness. For some women, the symptoms are mild, and they go away on their own. Other women take hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also called menopausal hormone therapy, to relieve these symptoms. HRT may also protect against osteoporosis.
HRT is not for everyone. You should not use HRT if you
- Think that you are pregnant
- Have problems with vaginal bleeding
- Have had certain kinds of cancers
- Have had a stroke or heart attack
- Have had blood clots
- Have liver disease
There are different types of HRT. Some have only one hormone, while others have two. Most are pills that you take every day, but there are also skin patches, vaginal creams, gels, and rings.
Taking HRT has some risks. For some women, hormone therapy may increase their chances of getting blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, and gallbladder disease. Certain types of HRT have a higher risk, and each woman's own risks can vary, depending upon her health history and lifestyle. You and your health care provider need to discuss the risks and benefits for you. If you do decide to take HRT, it should be the lowest dose that helps and for the shortest time needed. You should check if you still need to take HRT every 3-6 months.
Food and Drug Administration
Treatments and Therapies
- Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Time to Talk: 4 Things to Know about Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Bioidentical Hormones and Menopause (Hormone Health Network) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Hormone Replacement Therapy and Your Heart (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: Can It Cause Vaginal Bleeding? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Menopause: Medicines to Help You (Food and Drug Administration)
- What You Should Know about Hormone Therapy Health Risks and Benefits (North American Menopause Society) - PDF
- Menopausal Hormone Therapy for the Primary Prevention of Chronic Conditions (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF
Statistics and Research
- Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices: What the Science Says (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Hormone replacement therapy in cancer survivors: Utopia?
- Article: Hormone Therapy for Primary Prevention of Chronic Conditions in Postmenopausal...
- Article: Estradiol Therapy After Menopause Mitigates Effects of Stress on Cortisol...
- Hormone Replacement Therapy -- see more articles
- Estrogen-progestin replacement therapy -- see more articles