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Synthetic Hormones for Perimenopause Symptoms

Review on July 9th, 2015

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Perimenopause symptoms - such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings - are a common and expected part of this midlife transition. Yet just because they are natural doesn't mean that a woman must bear them with no relief. There are several methods of alleviating perimenopause symptoms, and for moderate to severe symptoms, women may be recommended synthetic hormones by their physicians. Find out more about this medicine, including its risks and benefits.

How Synthetic Hormones Work

During the menopause transition, hormone levels fluctuate up and down before finally reaching a level. Because hormones like estrogen and progesterone play so many varied roles in the body, these hormonal changes can produce perimenopause symptoms. Synthetic hormones replace the hormones that have dwindled, which is why this medication is also referred to as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Forms of Synthetic Hormones

The most common synthetic hormone formulation contains both estrogen and progestin, a type of progesterone. However, women who have had a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, may be prescribed estrogen alone. No matter the composition, synthetic hormones can be used in many forms, including:

  • Pills or tablets
  • Patch
  • Injection
  • Vaginal cream
  • Ring
  • Nasal spray

Benefits of Synthetic Hormones

By making up for lower levels of progesterone and estrogen, synthetic hormones can help treat perimenopause symptoms. Potential benefits include:

  • Reducing hot flashes and night sweats
  • Slowing down bone loss
  • Treating vaginal dryness
  • Decreasing the frequency of mood swings
  • Improving sleep

Risks of Synthetic Hormones

Unfortunately, synthetic hormones may also produce side effects, such as bloating, nausea, and breast soreness. In addition, synthetic hormones can increase the risk of the following:

  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke and blood clots
  • Heart attack and cardiovascular disease
  • Reproductive cancers
  • Gallstones

In order to avoid side effects as much as possible, it is recommended that women who opt for synthetic hormones take them for the shortest time and lowest dose at which they are still effective. A woman's current age - as well as the age at which she started the menopause transition and her symptoms - can all affect the rate of these risks. Therefore, it is important to discuss your whole medical history with your physician before deciding on a treatment for perimenopause symptoms.

For women who cannot or choose not to take synthetic hormones, there are still ways to find relief from perimenopause symptoms. Making healthy lifestyle changes is a good starting point for mild to moderate symptoms. To learn about alternatives to synthetic hormones, click on the link below.

Sources:
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2007). Effect of Hormone Therapy on Risk of Heart Disease May Vary by Age and Years Since Menopause. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/apr2007/nhlbi-03.htm
  • National Institutes of Medicine. (2011). Hormone therapy. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007111.htm
  • Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Retrieved July 7, 2015, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/symptom-relief-treatment/menopausal-hormone-therapy.html