How Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Work?

Going through menopause can be a challenge and the symptoms it causes are no joke. Treatment for menopause symptoms focuses on replenishing your hormones that have decreased as this can provide relief.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most popular type of treatment that women are prescribed when experiencing unmanageable symptoms — but what is HRT and how does it work? Find out more about HRT and how it can help with menopause with

What is menopause? 

Menopause occurs in women aged between 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier than this in what is known as early menopause. As women get older, their hormone levels change causing their periods to stop. Perimenopause is when you have menopause symptoms before your periods have stopped and menopause is when your periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months.

Menopause can happen naturally as you age or as a result of surgery that has removed your ovaries or uterus or cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

Symptoms of menopause

Symptoms of menopause can vary from woman to woman, but the most common symptoms can include: 

  • Changes to your periods — they can get heavier or lighter and will eventually stop altogether
  • Moodswings
  • Anxiety — apps like Calm and Headspace can help with these symptoms
  • Brain fog or memory problems
  • Hot flushes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Weight gain 
  • Lower libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Discomfort during sex
  • Recurring urinary tract infections 

Symptoms can last for a few months to a few years, which is why so many women seek help from HRT.

What is HRT?

Hormone replacement therapy does what the name suggests — replaces hormones that are low in your body. When going through menopause, oestrogen and progesterone levels decrease rapidly, leading to a myriad of symptoms that can impact your quality of life. However, replacing these hormones could help alleviate your symptoms.

HRT is available as tablets, creams/gels or patches so you can choose whichever type is convenient for you. Some women prefer tablets as they are pre-dosed, while others may prefer patches so they don’t have to try and remember to take a tablet every day.

One type of HRT is Kliovance, and it utilises combined hormones to give you the best relief from your symptoms. Discover more about this specific HRT in our Kliovance review.

How much does HRT cost?

HRT is available on the NHS, so the first thing to do is speak with your GP. They will normally recommend you start off with a low dose and work your way up to find what works best for your symptoms. 

There are private clinics and health companies that offer HRT products like progesterone cream too. But it’s vital that you always choose a reputable company so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. 

Always speak with your doctor before taking any type of HRT.

How does HRT work?

As you go through menopause, your oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels will drop drastically, completely disrupting your body. The symptoms of menopause are mostly caused by these hormonal changes, which is why HRT is so often recommended. 

There are different types of HRT and depends on your situation which one is right for you. Oestrogen-only HRT is given to women who have had a hysterectomy. This low dose of oestrogen will help replace the oestrogen that your body no longer produces and can help you feel like your old self again.

Combined HRT includes oestrogen and progesterone and is the most commonly used type of HRT as it’s prescribed to women who still have their uterus. Progesterone is added as it reduces the risk of endometrial cancers — something that women who have had a hysterectomy do not need.

How long after starting HRT do you feel a difference?

You won’t notice changes in your menopause symptoms right away when you take HRT. In fact, it can take a few weeks at least before you start to feel a difference in your body. It can take a little while for your body to adjust and get used to the new hormones.  

If you still haven’t noticed any changes after three months of taking it, speak with your doctor as you may need a higher dose or a different type

What are the benefits of HRT?

Taking HRT for menopause can have many benefits, such as: 

  • Lowered risk of osteoporosis — low oestrogen levels are associated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Decreased risk of certain endometrial cancers

The main benefit for women taking HRT is that it stops them from experiencing menopause symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings, vaginal dryness and night sweats. The reduction of these symptoms alone can make a huge difference to your daily life.

Side effects of HRT

The benefits of taking HRT generally outweigh the risks associated with it and the risks themselves are usually very small. It will also depend on the type of HRT that you take as to whether or not there are any risks.

When taking oestrogen-only HRT, there is no change in your risk of breast cancer. But when taking combined HRT, there is a very small increase in your risk. 

When you use HRT patches or gels, there is no increased risk of blood clots. However, HRT tablets can slightly increase your risk. HRT tablets are also associated with a slightly increased risk of stroke in women under 60.

Is HRT right for me?

Knowing whether HRT is right for you or not is a decision best made with the support of your doctor. They will be able to provide you with all the information you need about risks, benefits and different options of treatment. 

If you’re struggling with menopause symptoms, speak with your GP today and find out if HRT is right for you. 

Learn more about taking care of your health in our latest blog posts.