Hormone therapy (sometimes called hormone replacement therapy or HRT) can provide a lot of benefits for your health. Generally, you’ll feel better and more vital when you’re taking hormones because every part of your body is affected by them.
But there’s a bigger question to consider when choosing hormone therapy, one you may not have considered. Which type of hormone therapy should you choose? Here, our providers at Nutura Clinic in Portland, Oregon, explain more about the different types of hormone therapy and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Why get hormone therapy?
Although your body has many different types of hormones that can become imbalanced, most often, we’re talking about the loss of estrogen, which gradually begins to decline as you approach menopause.
Some of the symptoms of a hormone imbalance include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Dry skin
- Decreased libido
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Slow metabolism
- Feeling rundown or fatigued
If you decide that you want to consider hormone therapy, it’s essential to understand the different options.
The options for hormone therapy
When considering hormone therapy, you have some choices to make. You should choose the best option for you, taking into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Although we’re here to guide you through the decision-making process, it’s ultimately a choice you must make for yourself. The following four types of hormone therapy represent your choices.
Estrogen pills are one of your options for hormone therapy. This is the most common type of hormone therapy for women to begin with for several reasons, but you may discover that your body doesn’t react well to them.
The benefit is that your body gets a continual dose of estrogen, which may relieve your most uncomfortable symptoms. You also have a lower risk of developing osteoporosis.
However, the drawback of estrogen pills is that they may increase your risk of developing serious issues, including blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. This is a low risk, especially compared to what it was in the past, but it’s still possible. In addition, you may experience side effects such as swollen breasts, vaginal discharge, nausea, and headaches.
Estrogen is processed by your liver, so people with existing liver problems should avoid this method.
These patches stick to your skin. The estrogen is delivered transdermally, through your skin, and is usually applied just below your waistline.
The benefits of patches are that they’re easy to use, convenient, and safe for people with liver problems. Some experts believe patches are safer than pills, but they don’t know that for certain yet. Assuming that patches similarly present the same possible risks as pills, your side effects should be similar as well.
Additionally, you should take caution with heat, as it’s known that heat can increase the amount of estrogen you get in your system.
Topical creams and gels
These are forms of estrogen you apply to your skin. The primary advantage of estrogen creams or gels is that they’re absorbed through your skin, making them safer for people with liver disorders.
The disadvantage of creams or gels is that they haven’t yet been well-researched, so we don’t know everything about possible risks. In addition, you shouldn’t apply them on wet skin, and you should be aware that your response may be affected or completely eliminated if you get wet, such as with swimming. It’s best to apply them right after you get out of the shower.
Vaginal suppositories, rings, and creams
These forms of estrogen are delivered transdermally, but through the tissues in your vagina.
The advantage of these forms of estrogen is that they’re believed to be the most effective at relieving symptoms, especially related to your sexual function. They may even be safer than other forms because the estrogen is delivered directly to the part of your body that needs it the most, rather than exposing you to the effects of systemic estrogen, which affects your entire body. This may make your risks of blood clots and stroke lower.
The disadvantage is that because these options contain a lower dose of estrogen, you may not get adequate relief for some of your symptoms beyond vaginal dryness and decreased sex drive. It may not be enough to provide relief from hot flashes, for example, so whether or not you’re experiencing them should help guide your decision.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of declining hormones, you should schedule a consultation to talk to us about your specific symptoms, health risks, and goals for treatment. Contact the providers at Nutura Clinic today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.