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Hormone Replacement Therapy in Women

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?

HRT is medicine to replace your low hormone levels. Hormones are chemicals your body makes to control certain body functions. HRT contains the hormones estrogen and sometimes progestin. These are the main female hormones and are made by your ovaries. Estrogen and progestin are an important part of your reproductive system.

Female Reproductive System

What are the signs and symptoms of low hormone levels?

  • Hot flashes
  • Sleep loss
  • Depression, nervousness, or tiredness
  • Trouble staying focused
  • Vaginal dryness

Why may I have low hormone levels?

  • Menopause is the most common reason for low hormone levels. The average age when a woman's monthly period stops is 51 years.
  • Removal of your ovaries starts menopause symptoms right away. This happens because your body has no more estrogen.
  • Too much exercise or weight loss can cause your estrogen level to decrease. Your monthly periods may also stop.

What are reasons I should not take HRT?

You should not take HRT if you have or had any of the following:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cancer in the lining of your uterus or cancer of your ovaries
  • Heart or liver disease
  • High blood pressure, a stroke, or a heart attack
  • A blood clot or a bleeding disorder
  • A history of smoking, or current tobacco use
  • Bleeding from your vagina that is not your monthly period
  • An allergic reaction to hormones

What else do I need to know about HRT?

  • HRT has several benefits. HRT helps prevent osteoporosis, which decreases your risk for bone fractures. HRT also protects you from colorectal cancer.
  • HRT also has some risks. HRT increases your risk for breast cancer, blood clots, heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke. If you are 65 years or older, HRT can also increase your risk for dementia. Your risk for uterine or endometrial cancer is higher if you take estrogen-only HRT.

How often should I follow up with my healthcare provider?

You will need to return to see your healthcare provider at least 1 time each year. You may need tests, such a Pap smear or mammogram. Your healthcare provider will ask how you are responding to HRT, and change your dose if needed.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You are confused.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You are depressed.
  • You have abdominal pain or cramping.
  • You have swollen or tender breasts.
  • You have more vaginal bleeding than expected.
  • You have sudden weight gain or loss.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.