Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help women deal with the discomfort of menopause. It is important to understand that as with any medication, hormone replacement therapy does have some possible side effects. This article is part of a series devoted to learning more about what HRT is and its effects.
HRT is a treatment where women are given estrogen to help alleviate the symptoms of having lower levels of estrogen during menopause including hot flashes, vulvar dryness, and erratic mood swings. Another form of HRT combines estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen alone is given to women who underwent immediate menopause due to a hysterectomy where the ovaries were removed. Estrogen and progesterone treatments are for women experiencing natural menopause occurring over several years.
Many women are fearful of taking HRT and are unsure if it may be right for them. The following are the common possible side effects of HRT and are most likely to occur in the first few months of treatment as the body adjusts to the medication.
Women still having monthly menstrual cycles will be given hormone replacement therapy that still permits periods to continue. For women who have stopped having their periods, there are methods of hormone replacement therapy that will prevent the periods from starting up again. Women in either group should be aware of any bleeding that may occur during the first few months of taking hormones. This usually clears up within a couple of months. Any bleeding that persists may indicate another form of HRT is needed.
Some women may experience water retention and experience swelling in the ankles or face. Other symptoms include tenderness in the breasts, discomfort in the legs and an increase in the number or severity of headaches. If these conditions last for more than a couple of months, another form of HRT may be tried.
Bloating is often mistaken for weight gain, causing patients to fear that HRT will pack on the pounds. Patients need to examine their lifestyle choices such as dietary and exercise habits to rule out true weight gain and bloating. HRT does not generally cause an increase in actually weight but the belief still remains.
For women who are still getting their periods while on HRT and taking the combination of estrogen and progesterone, some may experience the discomfort of pre-menstrual syndrome. This form of PMS may be due to the hormone treatment, or the hormones present in the body that are adjusting to menopause. If PMS symptoms are a concern, an additional form of HRT can be used.
Menopause can be very difficult for some women who endure symptoms severe enough to impact their daily lives, careers, and relationships. There is help out there in the form of HRT, but there is also a lot of confusion about happens when taking HRT. Knowing the possible side effects of taking hormone replacement therapy can help to clear up the confusion. By talking to healthcare professionals about their concerns, women can begin to understand more about HRT and whether it is right for them.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You