How effective is hormone therapy for menopause?

Hormone (estrogen) therapy for menopause is especially effective at decreasing hot flashes and vaginal dryness.  Other symptoms of menopause, like mood swings and sleep disturbances may not benefit from hormones.
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Hormone therapy relieves some menopause symptoms, but it is also controversial. Studies show that prescription estrogen, with or without a progestin, poses health risks for some women. But for many women, especially those under 60 and those who completed menopause in the past 10 years, the risks are moderate or low. You can learn about the risks and benefits that might apply to you before talking to your doctor about hormone therapy.

Hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for symptoms caused by declining estrogen. These include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Treating these symptoms may also improve sleep, mood, and sexual problems. Hormone therapy helps preserve or improve bone density and reduces your risk of fractures due to osteoporosis, especially in the years right after menopause.

Some women who have already lost bone mass can benefit from long-term hormone therapy. It can help prevent further bone loss and reduce fracture risk. But because it has health risks, other treatments should be considered first. If you cannot use other therapies for some reason and have a lower risk of hormone side effects, hormone therapy may be an option for you.

Hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes during menopause. It can reduce the number and severity of hot flashes by more than 70%. Some women notice a change within a few days of starting treatment. For others, it takes 4 to 12 weeks.

Women who do not want to take a daily pill can use a hormone therapy skin patch. The patch releases a steady dose of hormones into the bloodstream. You apply a new patch to your skin 1 to 2 times a week, depending on the product. Estrogen-only and estrogen-progestin products are available.

Estrogen is also available as a gel or spray that is applied once a day to your inner arm or leg. These products contain estradiol, a synthetic form of estrogen. The same cautions and warnings that apply to oral estrogens apply to these products. Women who have not had a hysterectomy may also need to use a progestin product.

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.