Austin Women's Health Center Blog&Inspiration

Pros and Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy

June 2, 2023
pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy

Let’s first discuss what menopause is and what are some common symptoms. Next, we will examine the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy for menopause and some natural approaches to managing menopause without hormone replacement therapy.


Menopause is not a disorder but a normal part of aging. How menopause affects someone depends on the person, though symptoms are expected during the transition. Certain medications and lifestyle factors may help alleviate menopause symptoms.

What is menopause?

Menopause is the transition when your menstrual periods stop. Your period may become irregular before menopause, which is called perimenopause. You are not considered past menopause unless your periods have stopped for at least a year. After menopause, a person can no longer get pregnant.

What causes menopause?

As you get older, your ovaries wind down the production of the hormone estrogen, which causes irregular periods. Eventually, the ovaries stop producing estrogen altogether, although your body will continue to produce low hormone levels. Estrogen has many functions, and menopausal symptoms result from much lower estrogen levels. Sometimes, other medical conditions and lifestyle factors can cause menopause to occur before age 45.

What symptoms are caused by menopause?

Many people notice emotional and physical changes during menopause, but the severity of symptoms impacts people differently. The most common symptoms are:

– Irregular periods right before menopause
– Hot flashes, which can include flushing and night sweats
– Difficulty sleeping
– Less interest in sex
– Vaginal dryness that can make sex uncomfortable
– More urinary tract infections (UTI) and/or urinary incontinence
– Mood changes, including mood swings and irritability
– Weight gain, especially around the waist
– Loss of breast fullness
– Bone loss which can lead to osteoporosis
– Varying bodily changes such as aches and pains, thinner skin, or memory problems

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause

Remember, menopause is a natural biological process that mustn’t be terrible! There are ways to manage menopause.

Pros of Hormone Replacement Therapy:

1. Symptom Relief: HRT effectively reduces hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, providing immense relief to women experiencing these discomforts.

2. Bone Health: Estrogen replacement in HRT helps protect against bone loss and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, which is common during menopause.

3. Heart Health: HRT may improve cardiovascular health by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and reducing some women’s risk of heart disease.

4. Improved Quality of Life: By alleviating menopausal symptoms, HRT can enhance a woman’s overall well-being, allowing her to enjoy a better quality of life.


Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy:

1. Health Risks: Long-term use of HRT may be associated with an increased risk of certain health conditions, including breast cancer, blood clots, stroke, and heart disease. However, the overall risk varies depending on individual factors and the specific type of HRT used.

2. Individual Variations: The effectiveness and tolerability of HRT can vary from woman to woman. What works for one may not work for another, and the dosage and duration of treatment must be carefully tailored to each individual.

3. Side Effects: HRT can cause side effects such as breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, and mood swings. These symptoms may subside with time or a change in medication but can be bothersome in the short term.

4. Treatment Duration: HRT is usually recommended for the shortest duration necessary to manage symptoms, as the risks associated with long-term use may outweigh the benefits.

Hormone replacement therapy can be an effective option for managing menopausal symptoms and improving the overall quality of life. However, considering personal health history and preferences, weighing the pros and cons is crucial. Consulting with a healthcare provider is essential to determine HRT’s suitability and develop a personalized treatment plan. Regular reevaluation and monitoring are necessary to ensure hormone replacement therapy’s ongoing safety and effectiveness for menopause.

RELATED: Debunking Hormonal Birth Control Myths

HRT supplements the hormones lost through menopause. Taking estrogen alone or estrogen with the hormone progesterone helps some people find relief from menopausal symptoms.

However, HRT is not suitable for everyone. Some studies have indicated that HRT might make women more likely to have blood clots which could lead to strokes and heart attacks. You may also be more likely to get breast cancer with HRT.

Low doses of hormones, such as topical vaginal creams, rings, or tablet form, may have beneficial effects while posing less risk. Based on your symptoms, medical history, and family history, a doctor can help you decide whether HRT is right for you.

How can I manage symptoms without HRT?

Natural Approaches to Managing Menopause Without Hormone Replacement Therapy

Menopause is a significant life transition for women, accompanied by various physical and emotional changes. While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a standard option, some women prefer alternative approaches. Fortunately, several natural strategies are available to manage menopause effectively without relying on HRT.

1. Lifestyle Modifications:

a) Healthy Diet: Incorporate a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, which can exacerbate hot flashes.
b) Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activities like walking, yoga, or swimming to reduce menopausal symptoms, improve mood, and maintain bone health.

2. Alternative Therapies:

a) Herbal Remedies: Some herbs, such as black cohosh and evening primrose oil, have shown promise in alleviating hot flashes and mood swings. However, consult with a healthcare provider before starting any herbal supplements.
b) Acupuncture: This ancient practice may help manage menopause symptoms by promoting overall well-being and balancing hormonal changes.

3. Stress Management:

a) Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate stress-reducing activities like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness to promote calmness and reduce anxiety.
b) Supportive Relationships: Seek support from friends, family, or support groups to share experiences, gain insights, and find emotional support during this transitional phase.

4. Symptom-Specific Strategies:

a) Hot Flash Relief: Dress in layers, keep the room cool, use a fan, and try cooling sprays or portable fans for immediate relief.
b) Vaginal Dryness: Use water-based lubricants or moisturizers to alleviate discomfort and enhance intimacy.

While hormone replacement therapy is a popular choice for managing menopause, it is not the only option. Incorporating lifestyle modifications, exploring alternative therapies, managing stress, and employing symptom-specific strategies can help women navigate this phase of life without relying on HRT. Every woman’s experience is unique, so it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable approach for managing menopause symptoms naturally. Embracing a holistic approach to well-being can empower women to navigate menopause with grace and confidence.

When will I reach menopause?

Most individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) reach menopause in their 40s or 50s, with an average age of 51.

What is early menopause?

When menopause occurs before age 45, it’s considered early menopause. Early menopause occurs in about 5% of AFAB individuals. There can be many reasons for early menopause. Some causes include family history, surgery that removes the ovaries or uterus, radiation and/or chemotherapy, decreased estrogen and egg production, chemical imbalances, an autoimmune disorder, and smoking.

Menopause Resources

Read more at:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Pamphlet on Menopause

The National Women’s Health Information Center Menopause and menopause treatments Early menopause