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Menopause is a normal change in a woman's life when her period stops. That's why some people call menopause "the change of life" or "the change." During menopause a woman's body slowly produces less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This often happens between the ages of 45 and 55 years old. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row.
How do hormones help with menopause?
Reduce hot flashes
Treat vaginal dryness
Slow bone loss
Who should not take hormone therapy for menopause?
Think they are pregnant
Have problems with vaginal bleeding
Have had certain kinds of cancers
Have had a stroke or heart attack in the past year
Have had blood clots
Have liver disease
Hormone therapy for menopause has also been called hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Lower hormone levels in menopause may lead to hot flashes, vaginal dryness and thin bones. To help with these problems, women are often given estrogen or estrogen with progestin (another hormone). Like all medicines, hormone therapy has risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about hormones. If you decide to use hormones, use them at the lowest dose that helps. Also use them for the shortest time that you need them.
Every woman's period will stop at menopause. Some women may not have any other symptoms at all. As you near menopause, you may have:
Hormone therapy is the most effective FDA approved medicine for relief of hot flashes, night sweats or vaginal dryness.
Hormones may reduce your chances of getting thin, weak bones (osteoporosis) which break easily.
For some women, hormone therapy may increase their chances of getting blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer, and gall bladder disease. For a woman with a uterus, estrogen increases her chance of getting endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining). Adding progestin lowers this risk.
You can, but there are also other medicines and things you can do to help your bones.
No, do not use hormone therapy to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
No, do not use hormone therapy to prevent memory loss or Alzheimer's disease.
Studies have not shown that hormone therapy prevents aging and wrinkles or increases sex drive.
You should talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. Again, hormones should be used at the lowest dose that helps and for the shortest time. (For example, check if you still need them every 3-6 months.)
The risks and benefits may be the same for all hormone products for menopause, such as pills, patches, vaginal creams, gels and rings.
At this time, we do not know if herbs or other "natural" products are helpful or safe. Studies are being done to learn about the benefits and risks.
What can I do to improve my health whether I am using hormones or not?
Federal Citizen Information Center
National Women's Health
National Institutes of Health
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
This document was developed by FDA and other agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS thanks all of the participating organizations that have assisted in its reproduction and distribution.