Hormone therapy (HT) is used to treat symptoms of menopause. Your age, family medical history, personal medical history and severity of your menopausal symptoms are factors that may affect your decision to take hormone therapy. Talk with your healthcare about the benefits and risks of HT, the different forms of HT and other alternative options.
Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that are produced by a woman’s ovaries.
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Estrogen plays a role in many body functions, including:
Progesterone plays a role in many body functions, including:
As you begin to transition into menopause, your ovaries no longer produce high levels of estrogen and progesterone. Changes in these hormone levels can cause uncomfortable symptoms. Common menopause symptoms include:
Hormone therapy (HT) is used to boost your hormone levels and relieve some of the symptoms of menopause. Whether or not you should consider taking HT therapy is a discussion to have with your healthcare provider. There are many health benefits and risks associated with taking HT.
There are two main types of hormone therapy (HT):
Yes, it does.
If you still have your uterus:
Progesterone is used along with estrogen. Taking estrogen without progesterone increases your risk for cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). During your reproductive years, cells from your endometrium are shed during menstruation. When the endometrium is no longer shed, estrogen can cause an overgrowth of cells in your uterus, a condition that can lead to cancer.
Progesterone reduces the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer by making the endometrium thin. If you take progesterone, you may have monthly bleeding, or no bleeding at all, depending on how the hormone therapy is taken. Monthly bleeding can be lessened and, in some cases, eliminated by taking progesterone and estrogen together continuously.
If you no longer have your uterus (you’ve had a hysterectomy):
You typically won't need to take progesterone. This is an important point because estrogen taken alone has fewer long-term risks than HT that uses a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
The following list provides the names of some, but not all, postmenopausal hormones.
Vaginal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
Hormone therapy (HT) is prescribed to relieve menopausal symptoms including:
Other health benefits of taking HT include:
While hormone therapy (HT) helps many women get through menopause, the treatment (like any prescription or even non-prescription medicines) is not risk-free. Known health risks include:
Scientists continue to learn about the effects of HT on the heart and blood vessels. Many large clinical trials have attempted to answer questions about HT and heart disease. Some have shown positive effects in women who started HT within 10 years of menopause; some have shown negative effects when started greater than 10 years of menopause. Some studies have raised more questions about the potential benefits of HT.
Based on the data, the American Heart Association issued a statement for use of HT. They say:
Taking combined hormone therapy can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Here are some important findings:
Hormone therapy (HT) is not usually recommended if you:
Like almost all medications, hormone therapy has side effects. The most common side effects are:
Less common side effects of hormone therapy include:
In most cases, these side effects are mild and don’t require you to stop your HT. If your symptoms bother you, ask your healthcare provider about adjusting either the dosage or the form of the HT to reduce the side effects. Never make changes in your medication or stop taking it without first consulting your provider.
In general, there is no time limit to how long you can take hormone therapy. You should take the lowest dose of hormone therapy that works for you, and continue routine monitoring with your healthcare provider to reevaluate your treatment plan each year. If you develop a new medical condition while taking HT, see your provider to discuss if it’s still safe to continue taking HT.
The decision to take hormone therapy needs to be a very personalized one. Hormone therapy is not for everyone. Discuss the risks and benefits of hormone therapy with your healthcare provider at an office visit specifically dedicated for this conversation. You’ll need the time to address all the issues and answer questions in order to arrive at a decision that is best for you. Factors considered should be your age, family history, personal medical history and the severity of your menopausal symptoms.
Be sure to talk about the pros and cons of the different types and forms of HT as well as non-hormonal options such as dietary changes, exercise and weight management, meditation and alternative options.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/28/2021.
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