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Hormone Replacement Therapy

Also called: ERT, Estrogen replacement therapy, HRT, Menopausal hormone therapy
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Summary

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her period stops. It is a normal part of aging. In the years before and during menopause, the levels of female hormones can go up and down. This can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, pain during sex, and vaginal dryness. For some women, the symptoms are mild, and they go away on their own. Other women take hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also called menopausal hormone therapy, to relieve these symptoms. HRT may also protect against osteoporosis.

HRT is not for everyone. You should not use HRT if you:

  • Think that you are pregnant
  • Have problems with vaginal bleeding
  • Have had certain kinds of cancers
  • Have had a stroke or heart attack
  • Have had blood clots
  • Have liver disease

There are different types of HRT. Some have only one hormone, while others have two. Most are pills that you take every day, but there are also skin patches, vaginal creams, gels, and rings.

Taking HRT has some risks. For some women, hormone therapy may increase their chances of getting blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, and gallbladder disease. Certain types of HRT have a higher risk, and each woman's own risks can vary, depending upon her medical history and lifestyle. You and your health care provider need to discuss the risks and benefits for you. If you do decide to take HRT, it should be the lowest dose that helps and for the shortest time needed. You should check if you still need to take HRT every 3-6 months.

Food and Drug Administration

Start Here

  • Menopause (Food and Drug Administration)

Treatments and Therapies

  • 4 Things to Know about Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices From the National Institutes of Health (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
  • Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth From the National Institutes of Health (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

Related Issues

  • Bioidentical Hormones: Are They Safer? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: Can It Cause Vaginal Bleeding? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
  • Menopause Treatment (Endocrine Society)
  • Menopause: Medicines to Help You (Food and Drug Administration)
  • What You Should Know about Hormone Therapy Health Risks and Benefits (North American Menopause Society) - PDF

Specifics

  • Menopausal Hormone Therapy for the Primary Prevention of Chronic Conditions (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF

Statistics and Research

  • Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices: What the Science Says From the National Institutes of Health (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

Clinical Trials

  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Estrogen Replacement Therapy From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Hormone Replacement Therapy From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

  • Article: Menopausal hormone therapy does not improve some domains of memory: A...
  • Article: Ovarian Tissue-Based Hormone Replacement Therapy Recovers Menopause-Related Signs in Mice.
  • Article: Effect of Testosterone Replacement Therapy on Quality of Life and Sexual...
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy -- see more articles

Find an Expert

  • Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health Also in Spanish
  • Endocrine Society
  • National Institute on Aging From the National Institutes of Health Also in Spanish

Patient Handouts

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.

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