What is HRT?
When a woman enters menopause, the production of oestrogen and progesterone begins to vary, which can lead to physical symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, and headaches, as well as psychological symptoms like mood swings and issues with memory or concentration. Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, replaces these hormones and helps to relieve both the physical and psychological symptoms.
HRT can also help to prevent the weakening of the bones (osteoporosis), which is more common after the menopause.
Does it matter what form I take HRT?
The type of HRT most suitable for you will depend on your medical history, the symptoms you are experiencing, and your lifestyle. Your personal preference for the treatment you use is also important.
You might prefer patches, for example, if you don't want to take a tablet daily or if tablets give you indigestion. Vaginal creams or gels are often better at relieving vaginal dryness but are less effective for symptoms such as hot flushes.
Your GP can discuss the best options available for you before prescribing medication. Your GP will also review your treatment to make sure it is working.
How long should I take HRT?
There's no standard time limit for finishing a course of HRT, but this would usually happen when most of the menopausal symptoms have passed, which may be around four to five years after they started; although they can continue for much longer. When you stop taking HRT, you should discuss this with your GP who will usually recommend gradually reducing your dose rather than stopping suddenly. This is to reduce the likelihood of symptoms returning.
Are there any risks to taking HRT?
Like any medicine, HRT has risks as well as benefits. There is a small increase in the risk of breast cancer if you are prescribed a "combined HRT" (one which contains both oestrogen and progestogen). The increased risk is related to how long you take HRT, and it reduces after you stop taking it. There is little or no change in the risk of breast cancer if you are prescribed HRT, which contains just oestrogen.
If started before age 60, HRT does not significantly increase the risk of heart disease and strokes, and it could actually be protective against them. There is a small increase in the risk of blood clots if you take oral HRT tablets, but not if you use a patch or a gel. Your GP will discuss the risks with you. However, the risks are small, and for most women, the benefits are considered to outweigh them.
If I've had cancer, should I take HRT?
Most women can have HRT if they're experiencing symptoms of the menopause. If you or anyone in your immediate family has a history of breast, womb (uterus), or ovarian cancer, you should speak to your GP. They'll discuss with you if alternative treatment might be more suitable, and they may refer you to a specialist for advice if required.
There was news recently about HRT becoming available over the counter. Should I consider this?
There is currently only one type of HRT medication available from pharmacies without needing a prescription.
Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets contain estradiol. They are a form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that treats vaginal dryness caused by estrogen deficiency in postmenopausal women.
This is a positive step forward as it will make it easier for women to access life-improving treatment by increasing accessibility. If you think you might benefit from HRT, talk about this with your GP. They will help you decide if it's right for you and which of the several types best suits you.
Gina is now available to order online for home delivery without prescription* from Pharmacy2U’s sister site, Chemist Direct.