Dr Betty Keller is a menopause specialist and bioidentical hormone doctor who helps you understand and care for your menopause symptoms.
Menopause is a normal stage of life, and some women have symptoms they can take in stride. But for others, mood changes, disturbed sleep, increased urinary issues, and discomfort during sex have too much impact on quality of life and well-being.
Many women have heard that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (bioidentical HRT) can help. But there is a great deal of uncertainty and confusion about the safety of HRT medications. More women need access to updated information so they can learn about treatments without fear.
When Menopause Occurs
Menopause is an important health milestone in a woman’s life. A medical definition of menopause refers to the 12 months after a woman’s last period. However, changes in hormone levels occur for most women between the ages of 45 and 55.
Common Symptoms of Menopause
Many women are satisfied that the issues of pregnancy and monthly periods are over. But for some women, these hormonal changes have a major negative impact on their well being:
- Negative Changes in Mood: Changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect mood. As the body adjusts, some women find it difficult to concentrate or keep from becoming irritable.
- Painful Intercourse: Lower levels of these hormones make the skin around the vagina thinner and less lubricated. This can make sex painful or uncomfortable.
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Hot flashes are symptoms of menopause that cause sensations of sudden heat in your upper body, neck and face, and may trigger increased perspiration. And when a hot flash is over, you may feel a damp chill. Night sweats (hot flashes that occur during bedtime) can disturb sleep for months at a time for some women.
- Bladder Control Problems: During menopause, changes in vaginal tissue can impact bladder function. As these tissues become thinner, less elastic, and lose strength, some women find that normal coughing, sneezing or lifting causes uncontrollable leaks. It may be hard to sleep through the night without having to get up and use the bathroom. Some women get painful urinary tract infections more often.
- Bone Health: If menopause is premature or early, some women may be concerned about bone health.
Women who want to improve their quality of life during menopause have good questions, but may also have doubts about the safety of hormone replacement therapy. The level of distrust and misinformation around HRT is unfortunate.
It is important to inform women about bioidentical HRT, especially those who do not know the benefit of new forms of these hormones.
The Checkered History of HRT
Hormone replacement therapy began to be widely prescribed for menopausal women during the 1980’s and 1990s. HRT usually came in the form of oral tablets called Premarin and Prempro. But many stopped in 2002 with the public reports of health risks by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).
The media widely reported the finding that combinations of hormones used at the time were linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Women were suddenly told to discontinue taking their medications, and there was widespread alarm about unwanted health risks.
What these studies could not show, because of their design, was the role of the synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone used.
Premarin, for example, was processed from the urine of pregnant mares (as the name Premarin reflects). These drugs had adverse affects because the hormones extracted and synthesized in the lab had a different chemical structure than the body’s own forms. As the body processed the synthetic forms, they released harmful byproducts.
What is Bioidentical HRT?
Bioidentical hormone therapy uses hormones that match those made by the human body. In other words, the chemistry of these hormones matches the body’s own estrogen, and the body processes them the same way.
Bioidentical hormones are sometimes called “natural” hormones, which can be very confusing. Many HRT products can claim a “natural” origin, be it plant or animal. The important difference is that bioidentical HRT medications are formulated to act just like the body’s own hormones. The FDA has approved many bioidentical HRT medications for use in treating women with concerns about menopausal symptoms.
More Recent Findings
Research after the WHI study identified important factors that impact the safety and outcome of HRT, such as how soon it begins after menopause, and whether it is taken orally or in other forms. Unfortunately, the news of these findings is much less widespread.
Follow up studies found that the way a treatment delivers hormones also plays a part in how safely the body can use them. Some hormones in pill form carry different risks than those taken through the skin as a cream or gel, for example.
If you were to try to get information on the Internet, it is difficult to know who to believe. Some medical sites continue to share findings of older studies, and some focus on some of the newer studies without making clear what the full range of risks and benefits are.
Talk with a Doctor Who Is Informed about Bioidentical HRT
If you are concerned about symptoms and the safety of HRT, the best step for your health is to become better informed by talking with a knowledgeable doctor you trust.
HRT safety and effectiveness depends on when it starts, how long treatments last, what preparations are used, whether hormones are combined, and how the hormones themselves are formulated.
The benefits of any treatment must certainly outweigh the risks. And you deserve the opportunity to work with a doctor who will carefully assess and diagnose your symptoms and talk with you about the safest, most effective therapy for you.
Bioidentical HRT in Ridgewood, New Jersey
If you are in the Ridgewood, New Jersey area, and want to see bioidentical HRT can help, speak to Dr. Keller at 201-485-7930 or request an appointment online.
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