Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate all kinds of bodily functions, including fertility, metabolism, and even mood. Everyone’s body balances hormones differently, but it’s when they become unbalanced that we start to experience discomfort. In women, one of the most common types of hormonal imbalance occurs alongside menopause (either as a natural part of the aging process or in women who’ve undergone a hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy).
Most notably, we’re talking about estrogen. Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle and triggers the development of secondary sexual characteristics in women, but it also affects physiology all over the body, including cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular and brain functions. Before and during menopause, your estrogen levels first waiver and then drop significantly.
In short: A hormone you’ve lived with for decades suddenly subsides.
Hot flashes have become a stereotype of menopausal women, but they’re no joke. This kind of physical discomfort can range from an annoyance to downright affliction. But because hot flashes are commonly discussed as a part of aging, people mistakenly think that there’s nothing to be done about them.
Also, hot flashes are only one of many menopausal symptoms. Vaginal dryness and a thinning of the vaginal tissue also occurs, as does weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, which can cause incontinence. Along with those physical irritations, menopause lowers sexual desire. Low estrogen can also cause dry skin, sleep disturbances and mood swings.
Fortunately, there’s a straightforward treatment for menopause symptoms: simply replace some of the hormones that have become unbalanced. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) takes a few different forms: pills, patches, creams or gels that are taken orally or applied to the skin.
The Importance of a Personalized Plan
Of course, as is true of every part of my practice, every woman is different. We have to first determine what HRT plan works for you and your body, and HRT isn’t a good fit for everyone.
Additionally, HRT is a better treatment when started sooner. If you’re experiencing peri-menopause, it’s time to start the conversation. We can check your estrogen levels regularly and make sure your hormones stay balanced now and in the long-term.
Too often I find that women simply accept discomfort rather than seeking a solution. I am a strong advocate for HRT, and it’s long been a regular part of my practice. My job is to empower my patients to live their happiest, healthiest lives, and HRT is a significant tool in that pursuit.