As millions of women suffer with uncomfortable symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness, hot flashes and sleepless nights, Lauren Streicher, M.D., Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s Medical School, The Feinberg School of Medicine and the Medical Director of Northwestern Medicine’s Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause, provides answers for common questions about hormone therapy.
Lauren Streicher, M.D., OB/GYN answers 5 questions about estrogen therapy to relieve common menopausal symptoms.
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“Ever since the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) report, women have been cautious about the use of hormone therapy due to an increased risk of cancer, stroke and other serious health issues,” says Streicher. Of course, every woman is different and individual risks should be evaluated. Hot flashes occur in up to 80% of women and last an average of 7-12 years, despite positive lifestyle changes like doing yoga, eating right, and thinking positive thoughts. Today, we know that hormone therapy provides menopausal relief for common symptoms like: hot flashes, night sweats, dryness, and fractured sleep.”
Here are 5 common questions explained:
Q. Does hormone therapy have a higher dose of estrogen than birth control pills?
A: Birth control pills contain a higher dose of estrogen to prevent ovulation and pregnancy. Hormone replacement therapy strives to return postmenopausal women’s hormone levels to what they were before menopause. The hormone formulation and dosage in each treatment can vary. Speak to your doctor about the risks of hormone therapy and what dosage strength is right for you.
Q. Does Hormone Therapy cause weight gain?
A: For a variety of reasons, many women tend to gain weight as they get older, but there is no clinical evidence that hormone therapy will increase the chance of gaining weight.
Q. Is hormone therapy covered by insurance?
A: While Insurance will not generally cover unregulated compounded hormone therapy, it may cover FDA-approved therapies available at any pharmacy. In addition, experts caution against the use of custom-compounded hormone therapy because there is no evidence for its safety.
Q. Will hormone therapy increase my cholesterol?
A: Studies have shown that hormone therapy may lower cholesterol in some women. Oral estrogen (taken by mouth) may elevate triglycerides, but transdermal estrogen, which is administered through the skin, may lower both cholesterol and triglycerides.
Q. How do I handle painful sex? Is vaginal dryness just a part of aging?
A: There are safe and effective hormonal and non-hormonal prescription options to alleviate painful intercourse and vaginal dryness. You can also purchase over-the-counter, hormone free, long acting moisturizers at the drugstore. Incorporating a good silicone lubricant just before intercourse can ease penetration and increase comfort.
“There are lots of great new hormonal and non-hormonal options to suit every woman.” Just check with your health care provider or consult a menopause expert for the right hormone therapy or alternative options for your particular menopausal challenge.” adds Streicher. In addition to my book, Sex Rx: Hormones Health and Your Best Sex Ever, The North American Menopause Society, Menopause.org, is a great place for information and to find an expert.