To begin, hormone replacement therapy consists of using the female hormones of estrogen and progesterone to treat the most common symptoms of menopause and aging in women. Once women’s reproductive cycles decline and their periods stop, their hormone levels drop and uncomfortable symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and sometimes even osteoporosis begin to arise. In order to alleviate these symptoms, doctors may prescribe hormone replacement therapy during or after menopause to replenish the patient’s estrogen and progesterone levels.
Estrogen not only prepares a child-bearing age patient’s uterus to receive a fertilized egg, but it also raises the levels of good cholesterol in the blood and directly affects how the body uses calcium, which is vital in strengthening bones. Progesterone thins the lining of the uterus to allow the endometrium, or uterine lining, to leave your body during periods. However, once you stop having periods, progesterone reduces your risk of developing cancer in your endometrium, which can build up if you are only taking estrogen.
If you have a current or past history of breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancer, you should not take hormone replacement therapy. Those with a history of strokes and blood clots to the lungs or legs should not undergo hormone replacement either.