What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing oocytes (early eggs) and menstruation ceases. This usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 but can vary among individuals. During menopause, the body experiences hormonal changes, with reduced production of oestrogen and progesterone, often resulting in uncomfortable symptoms.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a category of treatment that is used to replace or supplement hormones in the body. It is commonly used to treat post-menopausal symptoms that occur due to a natural decrease in hormone levels that happens at that phase of life.
The two primary hormones that are used in menopause HRT are oestrogen and progesterone, which can be administered in various forms like pills (both oral and vaginal), patches, creams, gels, injections and implants. The choice of the hormone, administration method, dosage, and duration of treatment depends on individual factors, medical history, and personal preferences.
What are the signs that you need HRT?
During your life, your body's hormonal levels undergo natural fluctuations. While some women transition into menopause with minimal or no symptoms, these changes are normal and can lead to a range of postmenopausal symptoms. If you find your daily life significantly impacted by postmenopausal symptoms, it might be worth considering the initiation of HRT treatments.
Here are some indicators that hormone replacement therapy might be necessary:
- Mood Changes
- Sleep problems
- Hair Loss
- Urinary Problems
- Discomfort, irritation, or a burning sensation during sexual intercourse
- Low sex-drive
- Vaginal dryness and atrophy
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Bone density loss
What are the main HRT treatments for menopause?
There are two main types of oestrogen-based treatments that can be used to address the symptoms of menopause:
- Systemic hormone (oestrogen) replacement therapy - refers to the process of replacing the body’s levels of oestrogen at the time of menopause with oestrogen that comes in pill, skin patch, ring, gel, cream or spray form. These treatments can be used to treat any of the common symptoms of menopause as they contain a higher dose of oestrogen that is absorbed throughout the body.
- Vaginal products containing a low dose of oestrogen - these products come in cream, tablet or ring form and can be used to minimise the amount of oestrogen absorbed by the body. Because of this, low-dose vaginal preparations are usually only used to treat the vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause.
How long does hormone replacement therapy take to work?
The timeline for experiencing the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can vary. While some individuals might start sensing changes in a matter of days or weeks, the complete outcomes of HRT usually require more time to manifest. Generally, it may take a few weeks to notice the effects of HRT, with the full impact becoming evident over a span of up to 3 months.
Vaginal HRT typically takes a bit longer to exhibit its effects and the severity of symptoms can also influence the duration needed for the treatment to take effect. Although improvements might be noticeable within the initial three months, it can take up to a year to experience the full impact due to structural changes occurring in the vaginal and genital area during menopause.