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A Guide to Different Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy

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During menopause and perimenopause, estrogen production in the body slows and hormone levels fluctuate, which can cause wide-ranging symptoms such as irregular periods, hot flashes, and mood swings. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to treat hormonal imbalances and the resulting symptoms by putting female hormones back in the body. 

There are various types of hormone replacement therapy used to treat symptoms of menopause. Here’s what you need to know about hormone replacement therapy options. 

Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Women experience symptoms of menopause differently. Some only have mild symptoms, but others experience discomfort or distress associated with menopausal symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy is the most effective way to treat moderate to severe symptoms, such as hot flashes or vaginal dryness. HRT can also prevent bone loss and protect against osteoporosis

While hormone replacement therapy has typically been used to relieve menopausal symptoms in women, hormone therapy has benefits for men, too. Men can also suffer from hormonal imbalances. Age is a common contributing factor to hormone imbalance in men, other factors include diet, activity level, stress, and genetics. Testosterone replacement therapy can help relieve symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, and more. 

In addition to treatment for the symptoms listed above, hormone pellet therapy, a specific type of hormone replacement therapy, has been used to treat Alzheimer’s, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy

There are various types of hormone replacement therapy available today, and hormones come in a variety of forms including pills, patches, creams, gels, and injections. Prescription hormone products typically fall into one of the following groups. 

Bioidentical Hormones

Bioidentical hormones are biologically identical to the hormones produced by the ovaries. These hormones include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is known as the “natural” hormone replacement option; the hormones are derived from plants and are structurally the same as those that occur naturally in the human body.

Hormone pellets are one of the latest advancements in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. The pellet is implanted under the skin by a healthcare professional, where it consistently releases hormones into the bloodstream and can stay in for up to 5 months. The consistent nature of the hormone delivery provides more reliable relief from discomfort. 

There is a common misconception that bioidentical hormones are too costly for some because they are not covered by insurance. However, there are BHRT products that are covered by insurance and thus available at a reasonable cost. Talk to your doctor or gynecologist about your bioidentical hormone replacement therapy options.

Hormones from Other Species

Hormones from other species can also be used in HRT. One of the first types of hormone replacement therapy available was derived from horses. While these hormones may still be considered natural, the estrogens derived from horses are not native to women. There are also prescription hormone products derived from plants that are synthesized in a laboratory to mimic other hormonal compounds. 

Despite not being biologically identical to the hormones found in women’s bodies, hormones from other species have still been found to be effective in treating menopausal symptoms. 

Synthetic Hormones

Synthetic hormones are often found in prescription hormonal medications such as birth control pills and can be used for hormone replacement therapy as well. Most women have been found to tolerate synthetic estrogen well, while synthetic progestin seems to be the hormone associated with the largest array of side effects. However, newer synthetic progestins are connected to far fewer side effects than their predecessors. 

While synthetic hormones were the preferred method of HRT for many years, they’ve become less popular in recent years with advancements in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

If you’re looking for relief from symptoms related to hormonal imbalances, talk to your gynecologist about what types of hormone replacement therapy may be right for you. 

Talk to a Hormone Replacement Specialist

Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is a certified menopause practitioner and specializes in several types of hormone replacement for women and men. If you have questions about hormone replacement therapy, contact Chapel Hill Gynecology today. Chapel Hill Gynecology is open for office visits (using recommended protocols for preventing COVID-19 exposure) as well as telemedicine visits. Call (919) 960-2720 to schedule an appointment

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