Biologically speaking, hormones are chemical messengers, secreted by the glands of the endocrine system that stimulate, facilitate, or regulate almost all of your bodily functions. Another way to look at hormones is that they are a key raw material feeding the machines of your body’s factory. And, like any raw material, they can get used up, and need to be replaced. Your body naturally produces and replaces hormones as needed. However, its ability to do so is not unlimited. As we age, our ability to produce hormones decreases. In particular are the hormones associated with sexual function and youthful vitality.
In a nutshell, Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, means refilling the tanks to peak capacity, to make up for what the body can no longer produce on its own. For many years, Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, was the standard of treatment for women experiencing the most common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, etc. However, in recent years there has been much debate about the relative benefits, and risks of HRT. Much of the controversy began with a mega-study called the Women’s Health Initiative, or WHI. Started in the late 1990s and continued over many years, WHI found some links between an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease and the way HRT was traditionally being prescribed.
However, published in National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fact Sheet on HRT, it was stated, “Some of the WHI findings are of uncertain effect or not statistically significant.”
So even the findings of this important study are debatable. What is not open to debate, however, is the fact that HRT is still the most effective treatment available for women suffering from the most troubling symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. HRT is also approved for and has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for symptoms of Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD), such as vaginal dryness or painful intercourse, in both pre and post-menopausal women.
What has been the least controversial results of the WHI and similar studies, is that doctors now have a much better understanding of hormone treatments and how to safely apply them for maximum effectiveness, with minimal risks.
HRT – What Every Women Needs to Know
Despite medical science’s improved knowledge of the safety and effectiveness of HRT since the WHI trials, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about HRT.
Before the findings of the WHI study, HRT was believed to be helpful in women to reduce the risk of heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions, whose incidences increased after menopause. However since WHI indicated otherwise, HRT is rarely used that way today. However, that does not mean it is harmful, or no longer effective in treating other symptoms known to be related to low levels of female hormones, such as menopausal symptoms and those related to FSD.
In fact, HRT remains the most effective treatment we have for treating the symptoms of menopause and Female Sexual Dysfunction. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The benefits of hormone therapy outweigh the risks if you’re healthy and do not have a personal or familial pre-disposition to heart disease or breast cancer.”
If there has been any significant change in the way doctors now prescribe HRT since WHI, it is that they have become more selective about how and to whom it is prescribed. Which is good news for women!
Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Still the Right Choice for Most Women
Many clinical studies of today’s hormonal treatments such as systemic hormone therapy or low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen, conducted since WHI, have shown renewed evidence that hormone therapy is still the right choice for many women, as long as doctors take their overall lifestyles, family history, and other risk factors into consideration.
Today HRT is most commonly delivered orally, by a skin patch, topical gels, or creams and sprays. These have proven time and again to still be one of the most effective treatments doctors have to help keep women healthy and living active and productive lives. But now more than ever, it is important that women only seek HRT treatments from well-qualified and experienced medical professionals. The NIH recommends that women seek practitioners who will treat them as individuals and understand that they can no longer take a one size fits all approach to HRT.
Only then can a doctor properly prescribe the most effective treatments for your menopausal or FSD symptoms, which may, or may not, include HRT. It all depends on your individual needs, history, and lifestyle. Once your symptoms and hormone levels are adequately evaluated, you may require HRT, or you may also benefit from new and emerging all-natural treatments for sexual wellness, such as Platelet Rich Plasma therapy.
There remains a lot of myths and misconceptions about the safety and efficacy of HRT. However, the truth is, your doctor still has many ways to treat pre-menopausal, menopausal, or post-menopausal symptoms related to low hormone levels.