Feminine Hormone Replacement

Written by Sarah Provost
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Feminine hormone replacement, also known as hormone replacement therapy or estrogen therapy, has long been the first line of defense against the symptoms of menopause. Since menopause is caused by decreasing levels of hormones, supplementing those hormones can be helpful in combating all symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood disorders, insomnia, osteoporosis and changes in the vaginal tissue. However, feminine hormone replacement is not without its risks, and should not be undertaken without an understanding of those risks.

Estrogen is the primary substance used in feminine hormone replacement. Unless a woman has had a hysterectomy, it is usually recommended that a low dosage of progesterone be added to prevent the buildup of endometrial material and protect against uterine cancer. Androgens, primarily testosterone, are also often added to help fight osteoporosis and maintain libido.

Risks and Benefits of Feminine Hormone Replacement

The benefits of feminine hormone replacement, as mentioned above, are in the reduction of menopausal symptoms. More importantly, hormone therapy may add years to a woman's life, especially if she has any indications of heart problems, such as high blood pressure or a high cholesterol count. While younger women are less likely to have heart problems than men, after menopause, heart disease is the number one killer of women. Those women taking estrogen, however, have one-half to one-third the risk of heart disease than those who do not use hormone replacement. Hormone replacement also lessens the incidence of osteoporosis, an important consideration since fractures, especially hip fractures, can be fatal in older women.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, however, hormone replacement therapy is probably not a wise choice. Though there are studies that found no correlation, other research has shown that the incidence of breast cancer among women taking estrogen could be increased by as much as thirty to fifty percent. Therefore, whether a woman should take estrogen is a decision to be made with her healthcare professional, taking into account her risk factors for heart disease versus breast cancer.

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