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  • What treatments are there for menopause symptoms?

Your body stops making some hormones during perimenopause and menopause. Taking them as medicine can help with symptoms and have added health benefits for some people.

What is hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy works by replacing the hormones that your body stops making when you’re going through perimenopause and menopause — estrogen and progesterone.

There are two different kinds of hormone therapy:

Estrogen therapy: This is the best treatment for hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. If you’ve had a hysterectomy and don’t have a uterus, estrogen therapy is given.

Combined hormone therapy: If you still have a uterus, your doctor may prescribe combined hormone therapy. This is estrogen and also artificial progesterone (called progestin) taken together. Combined hormone therapy helps prevent uterine cancer and may also help prevent colon cancer.

Hormone therapy can help with:

  • reducing hot flashes

  • vaginal dryness

  • sleep problems

  • urinary tract infections and sudden urges to pee

  • arthritis pain

  • lowering your risk of colon cancer

  • lowering your risk of diabetes

Some of the options for how to take hormone therapy are like the options for taking hormonal birth control. These options are:

  • pills

  • patches

  • rings

  • vaginal creams (best for people who only have vaginal dryness as a symptom)

What are the side effects of hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy can have some side effects, but they’re usually mild and tend to go away after a few months. Side effects can include:

  • bloating

  • sore and tender breasts

  • headaches

  • difficulty going to the bathroom

  • upset stomach

  • vaginal bleeding

What are the risks of hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy can have some risks, depending on your personal medical history and your family’s medical history.

Combined hormone therapy may increase your risk for:

  • heart disease

  • breast cancer (if you take it for more than 3-5 years)

  • blood clots

Estrogen therapy may increase your risk for:

  • blood clots

  • breast cancer (if you’re on it for more than 10-15 years)

  • uterine cancer

  • gallbladder disease

  • heart disease

It’s best to take the lowest dose of hormone therapy possible, for the shortest amount of time possible. Hormones that you swallow in pill form increase some of these risks more than hormones that you take in other forms.

If you’re thinking about taking hormone therapy, your doctor or nurse will ask about your personal and family medical history. They can help you decide if the benefits are worth the risks.

Are there other treatment options for menopause symptoms?

People sometimes choose other methods of treating menopause symptoms if they’re worried about the risks of hormone therapy.

Some other methods are:

  • homeopathy

  • herbal treatments

  • Chinese medicine

  • acupuncture

Research hasn’t proven that these therapies are safe or effective. And they can also have side effects and risks. So if you want to go in that direction, consult someone who’s skilled and experienced. They can help you decide if their method is right for you and help you do it safely.

Where can I get treatment or more information?

Your OB-GYN as well as some Planned Parenthood health centers provide services for people going through perimenopause and menopause. Ask the staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center what services they offer.

You can also contact the North American Menopause Society.

More questions from patients:

Are there natural remedies for hot flashes?

Hot flashes are a common (and often temporary) symptom of menopause and perimenopause. Nothing makes them stop completely, but there are some natural remedies for hot flashes that may help. You can try:

  • regular exercise

  • not smoking cigarettes

  • keeping a healthy weight

  • Meditation or relaxation techniques

  • cooling down the temperature of your living space (especially your bedroom)

  • wearing thin layers of cotton clothes (so you can take layers off during hot flashes)

  • Using breathable (like cotton) bed sheets

  • keeping a record of when you have hot flashes to help you figure out if anything is triggering them

There are plant and herbal supplements some say help with hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. These include soy, red clover, black cohosh, and certain Chinese herbs. But not all of these herbal remedies have been proven to be safe or effective. And these supplements aren’t regulated, so you can’t know for sure if yours has safe ingredients, or enough of the ingredients for it to work. Just like other medicines, herbal medicines also have side effects and risks. So talk with your doctor or nurse before you take any herbal supplements.

Prescription treatments can be helpful for hot flashes, too. Your doctor or local Planned Parenthood health center can help you find the best way to deal with your hot flashes.

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