17 May Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy: Is it Right for You?
Recently, I came across an article on menopause and HRT––hormone replacement therapy––that claimed HRT is “the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms.”
I have a difficulty swallowing these types of claims because as someone who has supported many women with menopause over several years, the reality is that every woman is different. Every single woman has a unique constitution, which is to say, we all experience menopause in our own unique way.
For some women, menopause is a physiological, emotional, and hormonal nightmare (well, it feels that way). For others, it’s a walk in the park on one of those perfect sparkling blue-sky days. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, but that’s not to say that what I experience is what you experience.
So… that article prompted me to take a gentle dive into HRT for menopause symptoms here in my blog. Not to qualify it as an appropriate or inappropriate treatment, because I am not a doctor, but to explore some of its features and offer an alternative to be used in tandem with HRT if that is the path you’ve decided to take.
As with many conventional treatments, HRT may help alleviate some issues but come with equally uncomfortable side effects.
What is HRT?
As a woman going through menopause, you likely know something about HRT. You may also know that some controversy surrounds its use as a therapy for easing symptoms of menopause.
HRT started in the 1960s but gained popularity in the 1990s (1). However, there is great skepticism surrounding its use for women going through menopause because of the associated risks. It’s certainly not a suitable treatment for every woman, but it has helped countless women through menopause.
As with every type of medical treatment, there are pros and cons to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). So, it’s wise to gather all information and consider a variety of perspectives and expert opinions before making a decision.
My objective here is not to suss out all the risks or give a complete breakdown of HRT as a treatment for menopause. Rather, I want to provide a general explanation of how it works. I am not swayed one way or the other. I believe that both conventional and alternative therapies for menopause have value.
Declining Hormones in Menopause
During menopause, estrogen levels decline. Common symptoms include hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but as any woman who is experiencing menopause knows intimately, there are far more uncomfortable symptoms than just those two.
While many women experience a natural progression into this new phase of life, menopause also occurs following a complete hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries) as a result of lowered estrogen.
Menopause doesn’t just affect estrogen. Progesterone, the hormone responsible for preparing a woman’s uterus for pregnancy, stops being produced after the final menstrual cycle. It’s interesting to note that progesterone also helps improve mood and sleep. So, those nights of insomnia or fluctuating moods that surround menopause may be related to a drop in progesterone. Some sources also suggest that progesterone has anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties, that is, it can help relieve pain (2).
Is HRT the Most Effective Treatment for Menopause?
The efficacy of any treatment depends on the individual. There are a host of variables that can influence therapy, whether they’re conventional or alternative therapies. However, expert sources suggest that you may experience fewer problems with the following conditions in place:
- You begin HRT before age 60 or within 10 years of menopause
- You start with the lowest dose
- You take progesterone if you still have your uterus
- You find the best form of HRT for you: pills, patches, gels, mists, vaginal creams, vaginal suppositories, or vaginal rings
- You get regular pelvic exams and mammograms
I’m an advocate for alternative therapies, especially when it comes to women’s wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in finding the right therapy for the individual person, allopathic treatments included.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve spent years supporting women in all phases of their lives, but especially women going through menopause. So I’ve seen a lot of suffering. But there’s one thing that stands out for me: when women allow themselves to feel what comes up naturally during this phase of life––the good, the bad, and the ugly––they experience more ease and less suffering.
If that sounds like a tall order, it can certainly seem that way, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Allowing difficult emotions and uncomfortable physical symptoms to run their course isn’t easy, but there are therapies that can help shift the dense, heavy, challenging energy that arises with menopause symptoms.
If you’re struggling with menopause, considering HRT, and are interested in an alternative, supplementary therapy, give me a call. I use healing modalities like Reiki and Hypnosis to ease symptoms and help women navigate this phase of life with more ease. I’m located in Durham Region, serving clients in Clarington and surrounding areas. I look forward to hearing from you.