HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, is treatment that women take to help relieve menopausal symptoms.
(this is where it gets a tad science-y, so if you’ve lined this page up for bedtime reading, all power to you for making a great call)...
When you enter the menopause, the levels of oestrogen that your body produces start to decrease, due to a shift in the balance of sex hormones. This can trigger symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and changes to your mood. HRT contains synthetic oestrogen, which makes up for the deficit in naturally occurring oestrogen in the body, and helps to tackle menopausal symptoms.
Combined forms of HRT also contain a second hormone: a synthetic form of progesterone. Without anything to regulate it, oestrogen can increase your risk of getting endometrial cancer, as it may cause the womb lining to thicken more than it should. The progesterone has a protective function, keeping the oestrogen in line here and reducing the likelihood of cancer of the womb developing. If you’ve had a total hysterectomy though, because your womb has been removed, you’ll usually be prescribed oestrogen only HRT.
The menopause can also cause the bones to become more fragile and more prone to breaking, and HRT can offer some protection against osteoporosis by helping the bones to retain strength. It’s not a primary treatment for osteoporosis however, so if you’re looking to use it for this purpose, you should always discuss it with your prescriber in the first instance.
In terms of how long you take HRT for, it varies from women to women, but the majority of women stop taking it after a couple of years, once their menopausal symptoms have subsided. You should speak to your clinician about what their recommendations are before you start using HRT. Certain types of HRT will suit certain women more than others, and your clinician can talk you through the different options, and help you to decide which one is right for you.
HRT is a prescription only treatment in the UK, so it’s not available over the counter. You’ll need to have a consultation with your doctor or healthcare professional about it, to assess which products are safe and suitable for you to use.