Debunking the Myths about HRT for Women

myths about hrt for women

As women move through menopause, their hormone levels change drastically and dramatically. The results make themselves known through hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and brain fog.

That’s where hormone replacement therapy comes in. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a very common treatment known for its ability to alleviate menopausal symptoms by boosting hormone levels back to their pre-menopausal levels. At one point, HRT was the most prescribed treatment for women in the United States. However, that began to change in 2002 due to a problematic study released about HRT by the Women’s Health Initiative, which created numerous myths and confusion around the subject. Let’s dive into the facts about HRT, dispel the myths, and explore its benefits — and whether you might find it beneficial.

The Women’s Health Initiative Study

In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative released a national study claiming that hormone replacement therapy using certain types of estrogen and progestin might increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke in women.

While the study received an enormous amount of attention and press, in fact later evaluation showed that the data were misrepresented. The study looked at women older than 60, not women undergoing menopause — but you didn’t hear that in any news articles.

In fact, more recent research has disproven many of those claims. Studies show now that women who don’t take HRT are more likely to develop heart disease and osteoporosis than those who do undergo HRT. But the misinterpretation and misreporting of the data had done its damage, leading to the rise of many myths about hormone replacement therapy.

Myths About Hormone Replacement Therapy

That faulty 2002 study has done a lot of damage to women, thousands of whom have suffered for years unnecessarily because they believed myths about hormone replacement therapy. Take a look at some of the most common myths.

Myth #1: Hormone Replacement Therapy Causes Breast Cancer

The facts: Most women choose a version of hormone replacement therapy that includes both estrogen and progesterone. With this type of HRT, your risk of breast cancer may be very slightly higher than if you avoid HRT.

However, you’re 6 times more likely to contract breast cancer if you’re overweight — and you’re also more likely to get breast cancer if you enjoy a bottle of beer or a glass of wine each day. And your HRT can reduce the risk for cancers of your reproductive organs and for osteoporosis.

Women who go on an estrogen-only type of HRT run no extra risk of breast cancer. This type of therapy is typically prescribed for women who’ve had a hysterectomy.

Myth #2: There’s Just One Kind of HRT

The facts: You can choose from dozens of types of hormone replacement therapy. We specialize in using bioidentical hormones, a formulation composed of the exact molecules that your body produces naturally. You also have available to you a wide range of dosages — and our medical experts can help you find just the right one.

In addition, HRT comes in a wide array of delivery options. You might want to take a pill every day, prefer to give yourself an injection once a week, or rather wear a transdermal patch. We’ll help you make the right choice for you.

Myth #3: You Can’t Start HRT Until Your Periods Have Stopped for a Year

The facts: You can start hormone replacement therapy whenever you start experiencing the symptoms of menopause, including mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety. Since some women experience these symptoms before their periods have fully stopped, that means you can start HRT right away.

Myth #4: If You Have Migraines, You Can’t Take HRT

The facts: Some women are unable to take hormonally based contraception because they experience frequent migraine headaches — and they often think that means they can’t use hormone replacement therapy. However, most women who experience migraines can take HRT with no problems — though they may want to opt for patches or gels rather than oral HRT.

Myth #5: Hormone Replacement Therapy Can Prolong or Delay Menopause

The facts: Hormone replacement therapy doesn’t delay your menopause, and it doesn’t make it last longer. All it does is mute the symptoms you experience during menopause. It makes menopause bearable and helps return your life to normal.

Myth #6: Women Undergoing Early Menopause Should Avoid HRT

The facts: While most women start menopause in their mid to late 40s, a handful of women find themselves experiencing menopause symptoms before the age of 40. For these women, HRT can be a game-changer and highly beneficial to their health. HRT helps fight against osteoporosis and decline of brain function, and it lowers the risk of heart disease dramatically.

Myth #7: Hormone Replacement Therapy Causes Heart Disease

The facts: If you take your hormone replacement therapy in a transdermal form, your risk of heart disease is not increased at all. For some women, taking HRT via tablets can slightly elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease — but the solution is simply to choose a different form of delivery for your HRT.

This particular myth stems from that flawed 2002 study. Because 70% of the participants in the study were over 60, the results don’t apply to younger women. In addition, that study looked only at Prempro, a specific formulation of estrogen and synthetic progesterone. So the results really only apply to women over 60 taking that specific formulation of HRT. Follow-up analysis of the data, in fact, has shown that healthy women who begin an HRT regimen before the age of 60 actually enjoy a decreased risk of heart disease.

Myth #8: You Can’t Undergo HRT After Age 60

The facts: Many women still feel the effects of menopause well into their 60s and beyond. They continue to experience night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings many years after their periods have ceased. For these women, hormone replacement therapy can continue to be highly beneficial. Your doctor may want to decrease your estrogen dose as you get older, and you may want to switch to transdermal delivery of your HRT.

Myth #9: You Don’t Need Medical Support During Menopause

The facts: When your hormone production slows down as you approach menopause, your hormonal balance goes crazy (it’s a technical term). Your health and well-being are likely to suffer. You may experience hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, headaches, and insomnia. There’s no need to go through this discomfort — which can be extreme — when medical support is readily available.

Myth #10: You Can’t Get Pregnant While on HRT

The facts: Yes, you can get pregnant while on HRT. Stay on your contraception until you’re through with menopause.

Myth #11: Hormone Replacement Therapy is Dangerous

The facts: Most women who undergo hormone replacement therapy find it extremely beneficial, and the risks are very low. Yes, HRT isn’t right for some women — if you smoke or have a family history of certain cancers, it may not be for you. But we customize your HRT around your own body, your medical history, the severity of your symptoms, and your personal preferences — and we won’t start you on hormone replacement therapy if it poses any danger to you.

Myth #12: Hormone Replacement Therapy Causes Weight Gain

The facts: No evidence has been found to link weight gain to hormone replacement therapy. You might see some bloating initially, but that passes quickly.

Myth #13: Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Only for Women With Severe Symptoms

The facts: Hormone replacement therapy is of value to women whose menopause symptoms are mild to moderate. After all, wouldn’t you rather have no hot flashes than just a few hot flashes? In addition, especially if you’re in your 40s, starting HRT can help prevent osteoporosis and heart disease.

In fact, let’s take a moment to check out the actual benefits of HRT.

The Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy

If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, you won’t have to think twice to point out the benefits of hormone replacement therapy. That’s because you’ll breathe such a sigh of relief (and probably do your version of a happy dance) once you get relief from those symptoms.

Take a look at the symptoms you can expect to see improve in as quickly as a few days of starting HRT:

  • Your menopause-induced anxiety will ease. Many women find themselves inexplicably anxious during menopause. You can expect to feel calmer and more like yourself with HRT.
  • You’ll see an end to hot flashes. Hot flashes — that overwhelming, all-consuming feeling of suddenly feeling as if you’re on fire all over — are one of the most notorious and bothersome symptoms of menopause. Many women hate them especially because of their unpredictability. HRT puts an end to them.
  • You’ll say goodbye to night sweats. Night sweats are the other vasomotor symptom that plague women with menopause. Essentially, these nighttime hot flashes result in sheets soaked with sweat and disturbed sleep. Hormone replacement therapy ends night sweats along with hot flashes.
  • You’ll also enjoy better sleep. Night sweats certainly disrupt your sleep, but even women who don’t experience these unpleasant symptoms are likely to notice disturbances in their sleep during menopause. With HRT, you’ll sleep better.
  • You’ll experience less vaginal dryness. Dryness and itching become a way of life when you hit menopause. HRT keeps a healthy balance in your vagina so you can avoid dryness. Which means…
  • Sex will be more comfortable. Because of that vaginal dryness, sexual intercourse during and after menopause can be downright painful. There’s one symptom you’re likely to be happy to see disappear.
  • You’ll experience a reduced risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is typically a silent disease. You don’t realize you have it until you break a bone — and as you get older, bone fractures don’t necessarily heal well. Thanks to the supplemental estrogen provided by HRT, your bones can stay strong and healthy.
  • You’ll have a reduced risk of dementia. HRT helps protect your brain as well as the rest of your body. When your hormones are in balance, your risk of dementia goes down.
  • You’ll experience fewer mood swings. For many women, the inability to control their own emotional reactions is one of the most upsetting symptoms of menopause. One minute everything’s fine, and the next, you’re watching yourself go completely out of control. With hormone replacement therapy, you can stay on top of your own emotions and put those mood swings to rest.
  • You’ll maintain muscle strength. You may have worked hard to get physically strong. It would be a shame to lose all those great results just because you’re getting older, but loss of muscle strength is a common side effect of menopause. HRT helps your muscles remain strong and healthy.
  • You’ll have a reduced risk of heart disease. Especially if you’re under 60, HRT provides some protection to your cardiovascular system, reducing your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.


Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Right for You?

As you reach menopause, you may begin to notice various symptoms emerging. We want to reassure you that your experiences are valid, and we’re here to help.

If you want to weigh the benefits of hormone replacement therapy against its small risks, we are happy to talk all of that through with you. We can also help you determine what type of treatment might be best for you, so you can make an informed decision. Contact us to make an appointment so we can join you as you navigate menopause.