What Should Perimenopausal Women Know About Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Many women associate menopause with their late fifties and sixty. They assume that they won't begin to experience symptoms like hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and night sweats until they're ready to retire. But for many, the first signs of menopause can begin as early as one's late thirties or early forties. Known as perimenopause, this period can last for a decade or longer and is marked by milder versions of the same symptoms menopausal women experience. Read on to learn more about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and how it can impact long-term health and happiness.

What happens in perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a gradual process during which the ovaries reduce the amount of estrogen they release. As the body finds itself dealing with less estrogen, physical and mental changes can take place. These include difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, fatigue, decreased strength, loss of libido, weight gain, hair loss, and irregular menstrual cycles. The symptoms of perimenopause can wax and wane over time, but will generally continue until your ovaries stop releasing estrogen entirely—true menopause.

What does HRT do?

For women, HRT can be used to supplement the estrogen your body is no longer producing on its own. Because lower estrogen levels are associated with an increased risk of a wide range of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis, many women decide that dealing with the symptoms of menopause and having these higher risks at the end of the process just isn't worth it.

Recently, much progress has been made on bioidentical hormones—man-made hormones that can perfectly mimic those produced by the human body. By carefully compounding the hormones to match your own body's levels, then placing them in a unique time-release pellet form that gives you a constant stream of hormones, doctors can essentially keep your body in pre-menopause indefinitely. These hormone pellets last for several months or longer (depending on size, brand, and dosage), and you'll usually need to periodically undergo blood testing to see whether the dosage you're on is right for your body. 

Not everyone who is in perimenopause needs (or can benefit from) bioidentical hormones, but if symptoms are bothering you, it can be worthwhile to talk to your doctor or a nurse like Carli Larson about your options. Although your periods will still stop at some point and you won't be immune from all the trials and tribulations of the aging process, you'll likely feel as though you're able to remain young a bit longer through the use of bioidentical hormones. 

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