Women’s hormone health is one of the hottest topics in today’s medical world. Women have access to an extensive list of options for managing midlife hormone health. With the research and information gained in the last 20 years regarding women’s health, physicians can now leverage an individualized, comprehensive approach to managing hormonal health during midlife. This dramatic change reflects a long, uphill battle following the release of a controversial Women’s Health Initiative study in 2001, that spurred fear of oral hormones and the risks associated with them. Media outlets quickly seized on the news that Premarin and Provera could increase the risk for heart disease and breast cancer, and women were quick to stop taking their hormones. Prescriptions for sleep medications rose and women lost the benefits gained from hormone therapy, especially the protective effect of estrogen for bone and brain health. Subsequent years of research revealed the original study contained multiple errors and a rush to judgment. Insights gained since that time propelled the women’s health industry forward. At Westcoast Women’s Clinic, care providers apply the lessons learned from this research to help women get the hormones they need, when appropriate. Women need to know the current science behind hormone therapy to improve health and quality of life.
Hormone Therapy Can be Beneficial
Hormones are created by the body to provide direction to tissues and cells. When women have an excess or deficiency of certain hormones, they can experience disruptive symptoms, such as hot flashes/night sweats; insomnia; fatigue; vaginal dryness; migraines and low mood. The use of hormone therapy can alleviate these problems.
What many women don’t know is that hormone therapy can also provide long-term health benefits. Those at risk for depression, dementia or osteoporosis will benefit the most from hormone therapy, in addition to the relief of their hormonal symptoms. Women who begin hormone therapy within the first years after the onset of menopause will reap the fullest benefit to their health.
There Are Options Besides Synthetic and Oral Hormones
Women need to know that there is a difference between synthetically produced oral hormones, such as Premarin and Provera, and bioidentical (and often natural) hormones:
– Bioidentical hormones are recognized by the body and therefore lower doses are required.
– Bioidentical hormones can often be compounded specifically for each individual, again ensuring the lowest dose necessary to relieve individual symptoms.
– Oral hormones are broken down by the liver, releasing the preemptive clotting factors that increase the risk for stroke or adverse health events. Transdermal application of hormones, such as with the use of a topical estrogen patch or a compounded progesterone cream, can bypass this entire process and deliver a safer, smaller dose.
Speak to your doctor about the best type of hormone and route of administration for you.
Individualized Treatment Plan
Care providers must consider the unique needs of each woman when creating a treatment plan for her hormone health:
–> Symptoms should be evaluated, and may include changes to menstrual flow; cyclical acne, headaches and migraines; changes in gut function; breast tenderness; irritability and mood swings, anxiety and depression; lack of energy; sleep disturbances; changes in libido; memory loss or brain fog; vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats; vaginal dryness, painful intercourse; joint and muscle pain; loss of bladder control, recurrent bladder infections; and weight gain.
A comprehensive risk assessment should be conducted, to determine if hormone therapy is appropriate; to prescribe the lowest dose possible; and to determine the best route of administration to address the health concerns. Each woman’s unique lifestyle, personal history, family history and existing health problems must be taken into consideration. The benefits associated with maintaining a proper diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, managing stress, and making healthy lifestyle choices cannot be overstated, and should be incorporated into every woman’s treatment plan. Natural supplements may also be used in conjunction with other treatment techniques. The root cause of hormone imbalance should be addressed. For instance, stress can impact the interactions between cortisol, adrenaline and sex steroid hormones, and may need to be addressed, in addition to hormone therapy for symptomatic relief.
Women fill many roles, ranging from mother, partner and friend to CEO and beyond, and a woman’s health will affect her circle of friends and family. Women must have a voice in their hormonal care and work with an experienced care team to make the best, most informed decision possible for herself.