Jan O’Hara, WHNP
Let me introduce you to Jan O’Hara who is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner at Vickery Family Medicine and is also the owner of Asheville Childbirth Education where she teaches birthing classes. Jan enjoys educating women about the incredible experience of childbirth and the female body.
Here is the next digestible blog post Jan has written about women’s health that I would love to share with you.
- Dr. Gus Vickery, M.D.
If you’re going through the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, you don’t have to go it alone. Women can actually ease some of their menopausal systems with personalized hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
I’m a huge proponent of personalized health and balanced hormones, specifically bioidenticals/compounded hormones, and I think there are multiple ways many women can benefit from their use.
What Is HRT?
HRT has been proven to treat hot flashes, ease vaginal discomfort, prevent bone loss, reduce fractures, and more in postmenopausal women with the use of bioidenticals—hormones that have the same chemical and molecular structure as hormones produced in the human body. These bioidenticals can come in a pill, skin patch, gel, cream, tablet, ring, spray or troche form.
Other benefits of HRT include:
Reduced risk of osteoporosis
Improved muscle function
Lower mortality in younger postmenopausal women
Reduced risk of vulvovaginal and urinary tract infection
While there are standard forms of HRT that can be prescribed by your healthcare provider, there have been several risks and side effects associated with these types of treatment. In the largest clinical trial to date regarding HRT, a combination estrogen-progestin pill (Prempro) was shown to increase the risk of certain serious conditions, including heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. Other studies have shown that these risks vary, depending on age.
But this is why there is such a strong belief in the use of bioidenticals that have been compounded, creating a much more personalized and custom form of HRT.
How Personalized HRT Is Different
Custom-made HRT takes different doses of certain bioidenticals and compounds them together to create the treatment that is specifically designed for the individual patient. For example, we could combine a low dose of estradiol (a form of estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone in a cream for a patient dealing with mild hot flashes, a dip in libido, and low energy due to menopause.
According to surveys, it’s estimated that 1 million to 2.5 million women are using this type of compounded bioidentical hormone therapy and that the number of prescriptions for custom-made HRT medications reached an estimated 26 to 33 million annually.
More and more women are taking it upon themselves to take back their bodies and discover their own personalized treatment for uncomfortable menopausal symptoms.
Consider Your Risks
But remember, if you are thinking of using HRT, it must be a careful and informed decision taken into consideration with a healthcare provider who understands your individual risks.
Keep in mind that HRT may not be suitable for women who have experienced:
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
Thrombosis or blood clots
Endometrial, ovarian or breast cancer
If your healthcare provider believes HRT may not be right for you, there are other ways to combat the difficult symptoms associated with menopause. Besides exercising regularly and not smoking, reducing your consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods can be a huge help on your postmenopausal body. Also, wearing loose clothing and sleeping in a well-ventilated room with cooling gel pads or pillows can greatly help with hot flashes.
But if HRT is the right choice for you, this treatment should be tailored to you specifically and re-evaluated every so often by your healthcare provider to be sure the benefits still outweigh the risks.