HRT stands for Hormone replacement therapy and it is a medication used to treat symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. There are two main reasons why a doctor might prescribe HRT; the first is to treat menopausal symptoms, and the second reason is to prevent the development of other long-term health conditions, like osteoporosis and heart disease, in women who go through menopause early. Hormone replacement therapy works by increasing hormone levels in the body, which deplete during menopause.
How do I know if I'm menopausal or perimenopausal?
The main indicators you might be experiencing menopause or perimenopause is your age and the symptoms you are experiencing. If you are between 45-55 years old and have any one or more of the common menopause symptoms, it's likely to be due to menopause. Some of the common symptoms include:
- hot flushes or hot flashes
- Heart palpitations
- Bone loss
- sleep disturbances or sleep issues
- Hight blood pressure
- Night sweats
- Increased anxiety
- low mood or irritability
- memory loss
- weight gain
- mood swings
- dry skin and dry mouth
- Recurrent urinary tract infections and urinary incontinence
- vaginal dryness and inflammation of the vaginal wall
- reduced sex drive
- joint stiffens
- headaches and migraines
- hair loss or thinning
- changes in skin conditions, like oiliness or the development of acne
Sometimes these symptoms can be difficult to attribute to menopause or peri-menopause, especially if you only experience one or two of them. If you are in age range for menopause (45-55 years old) and have not experienced these symptoms before but are now noticing them, it is possible it's due to menopause.
It's also possible to go through menopause and to start experiencing these symptoms before the age of 45. 5% of women experience menopause before the age of 45, called early menopause, and 1% experience menopause before the age of 40, called Premature Ovarian Insufficiency. Lots of people have symptoms of menopause for several years before they actually become menopausal, some people experience lots of these symptoms in their 30s!
Doctors may suggest trying hormone replacement therapy to see if it improves these symptoms
If you and your doctor think the symptoms you are experiencing are due to menopause or perimenopause, one of the treatment option is trying HRT to see if improves them. Usually, you'll be prescribed a low dose to start with, and if the HRT improves theses symptoms then it's likely they're caused by menopause!
Once it's determined that HRT is right for you, you and your doctor can work together to work out the type of HRT and the dosage that is works for your medical history and personal circumstances.
Read more about how HRT works and the different types of HRT here.
Sometimes you can do tests to see if what you're experiencing is menopause
In some women under the age of 45 who are experiencing menopausal symptoms, their doctor may suggest doing a menopause test. Theses test look at hormones in your blood that show how well your ovaries are working. If there are not many eggs left in your ovaries, it will be showing in the test and this is an indicator of whether you'll be going through menopause sooner rather than later.
These tests are not always accurate or necessary and we don't always recommend them at Fertifa, so it's best to speak to a doctor or your Fertifa Patient Advisor to see if this is the right thing for you.
Some people will need HRT if they have early menopause (natural or induced)
If you've gone through premature menopause, this could be naturally or due to medical interventions such as a hysterectomy, your doctor might recommend HRT - even if you've not got difficult menopause symptoms.
In people who go through menopause early, or in anyone who has had their ovaries removed, there is a decreased amount of oestrogen in their body for an extended amount of time.
This can therefore increase the risk of osteoporosis (bone disease) and the risk of heart disease. HRT can decrease the risk of these diseases developing, so usually if you experience early menopause you'll be prescribed HRT to continue taking until around the age of 52 (the average age of menopause in the UK), unless there is a medical reason that you shouldn't take HRT. One medical reason might be that you're at higher risk of breast cancer due to family history.
Evaluate your quality of life and menopausal symptoms to decide if HRT is right for you
There are some small risks of hormone replacement therapy, but for lots of people the improvements in quality of life heavily outweigh the risks.
Speak with your doctor about they symptoms you're experiencing, your family history of things like breast cancer or endometrial cancer, other potential risks and other effective treatments that might work for you an then c you an make an informed decision about if you want to use HRT and the type of Hormone therapy that is right for you.
Not everyone will need HRT when going through menopause or perimenopause
Some people cannot take HRT due to health history and around 25% of menopausal women are not badly affected by menopause symptoms, so might not need to take HRT. In these cases, lifestyle changes and natural remedies are often sufficient to manage the symptoms.
If you're a Fertifa patient looking to understand more about HRT, get in touch via the app. Our doctors and nurses can talk you through HRT and give you a prescription if they agree it's suitable for your menopause symptoms.