Hormone replacement therapy may be used for various purposes: it may be used by transgender individuals to obtaining certain sexual characteristics.
It can also be used when the body is not producing adequate amounts of certain hormones such as thyroid, androgens and so on. However most commonly, the term is used for managing and controlling the symptoms of menopause in women.
What is hormone replacement therapy for menopause?
It is also known as HRT and aims to resolve the problems that menopausal women face due to declining levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body.
Sometimes surgical removal of the female reproductive organs or premature ovarian failure also brings about severe menopause symptoms for which the hormone therapy may be used.
Hormone replacement treatments for menopause had become very popular because they were effectively able to control symptoms such as hot flashes, tiredness, memory problems, brittle bones etc.
However, 2 studies by the Women’s Health Initiative found that HRT could increase risk of breast cancer, strokes, heart disease and pulmonary embolism along with the benefits.
So hormone replacement for menopause is now treated with a lot of caution and is used only when really necessary and only when the perceivable benefits outweigh the potential risks.
What is natural or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy?
This is sometimes referred to as BHRT and is considered to be a form of alternative medicine. The claim is that natural or bioidentical HRT is customized to the individual requirements of each woman by virtue of saliva testing and blood analysis.
This type of hormone replacement therapy is sometimes dispensed by compounding pharmacies so that they can be customized to each individual woman. It is also claimed that this form of HRT is both effective and safer than other types.
This claim of safety is made based on the fact that these hormones are often plant derived. They may be derived from yams or soybeans and then compounded using requisite carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. This resultant hormone molecule is supposed to be closer to the human hormone in nature and composition it is claimed and is therefore safer.
However, there is actually nothing to suggest that natural hormone replacement therapy is actually safer than conventional HRT. It is thought to have the same risks and potential problems as other forms of HRT. Pharmacy compounded hormones are also not subject to approvals and quality checks. So, even natural HRT has to be used with as much caution.