Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone therapy is a treatment for women going through menopause. The hormones estrogen and progesterone help regulate a woman’s menstrua...

Table of Contents
powered by healthline

Average Ratings

Overview of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone therapy is a treatment for women going through menopause.

The hormones estrogen and progesterone help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. They also play an important role in bone health and support other functions in a woman’s body.

As a woman goes through menopause, her levels of estrogen and progesterone drop. This can cause hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help ease these symptoms. The therapy uses estrogen by itself or with progestin, the synthetic version of progesterone.

HRT can also be used to treat conditions that disrupt normal production of estrogen and progesterone, such as premature ovary failure. This therapy is effective for some women. However, for others, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Hormone replacement therapy is also known as estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). A different type of hormone therapy exists for men who have breast cancer.

The Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

The National Institute of Health (NIH) under the Women’s Health Initiative conducted a major trial that tested continuous estrogen-plus-progestin HRT for post-menopausal women. The study found that the estrogen-plus-progestin supplements resulted in (NIH, 2004):

  • an increased risk of dementia, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer
  • reduced risk of colorectal cancer
  • fewer bone fractures

Researchers found that this therapy put post-menopausal women at risk for severe health problems. They stopped the trial to protect the women’s health. However, the risk and benefits to women with other conditions affecting their hormone levels may be different. Discuss your risks with your doctor before you consider HRT.

How to Prepare for Hormone Replacement Therapy

Talking with your doctor about hormone therapy is the first step in discovering if it’s right for you. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefit of HRT may outweigh the risks for healthy women if they (Mayo, 2012):

  • experience moderate to severe hot flashes
  • have lost bone mass and other treatments aren’t working
  • suffer from premature menopause (stopped menstruating before 40)
  • lost function of the ovaries at a young age

How Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Performed

HRT is a short-term therapy for menopausal symptoms. Therapy typically lasts one to two years. It may last longer than five years for conditions such as premature ovarian failure.

HRT can be delivered via:

  • oral tablets taken daily
  • injections (rarely used)
  • intrauterine devices, such as rings or implants
  • patches that slowly release hormones
  • transdermal gels
  • vaginal rings

Talk to your doctor about which delivery option would be best for you. You should not undergo HRT if you smoke.

After Hormone Replacement Therapy

As you begin HRT, you’ll notice your menopausal symptoms decrease in severity or stop completely.

Your doctor may adjust your dosage levels in follow-up appointments. Women should only take the lowest dose of hormones to prevent problems.

Menopausal women should adopt a healthy lifestyle, including:

  • regular exercise
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • managing stress

Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns during your therapy.

Written by: Brian Krans
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: George Krucik, MD
Published: Jul 3, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
Top of page
General Drug Tools
General Drug Tools view all tools
Tools for
Healthy Living
Tools for Healthy Living view all tools
Search Tools
Search Tools view all tools
Insurance Plan Tools
Insurance Plan Tools view all tools

What is a reference number?

When you register on this site, you are assigned a reference number. This number contains your profile information and helps UnitedHealthcare identify you when you come back to the site.

If you searched for a plan on this site in a previous session, you might already have a reference number. This number will contain any information you saved about plans and prescription drugs. To use that reference number, click on the "Change or view saved information" link below.

You can retrieve information from previous visits to this site, such as saved drug lists and Plan Selector information.