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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment used to relieve symptoms of the menopause. It replaces hormones that are at a lower level as you approach the menopause.
This page covers:
The main benefit of HRT is that it can help relieve most of the menopausal symptoms, such as:
Many of these symptoms pass in a few years, but they can be very unpleasant and taking HRT can offer relief for many women.
It can also help prevent weakening of the bones (osteoporosis), which is more common after the menopause.
Speak to your GP if you're interested in starting HRT.
You can normally begin HRT as soon as you start experiencing menopausal symptoms and won't usually need to have any tests first.
Your GP can explain the different types of HRT available and help you choose one that's suitable for you.
You'll usually be started off on a low dose, which can be increased at a later stage. It may take a few weeks to feel the effects of treatment and there may be some side effects at first.
Your GP will normally recommend trying treatment for three months to see if it helps. If it doesn't, they may suggest changing your dose or changing the type of HRT you're taking.
Most women can have HRT if they're experiencing symptoms associated with the menopause.
But HRT may not be suitable if you:
In these circumstances, alternatives to HRT may be recommended instead.
There are many different types of HRT and finding the right one for you can be tricky.
There are different:
Your GP can give you advice to help you choose which type is best for you. You may need to try more than one type before you find one that works best.
Read more about the different types of HRT.
There's no limit on how long you can take HRT, but talk to your GP about the duration of treatment they recommend.
Most women stop taking it once their menopausal symptoms pass, which is usually after a few years.
When you decide to stop, you can choose to do so suddenly or gradually.
Gradually decreasing your HRT dose is usually recommended because it's less likely to cause your symptoms to come back in the short term.
Contact your GP if you have symptoms that persist for several months after you stop HRT, or if you have particularly severe symptoms. You may need to start HRT again.
As with any medication, HRT can cause side effects. But these will usually pass within three months of starting treatment.
Common side effects include:
The benefits of HRT are generally felt to outweigh the risks. But speak to your GP if you have any concerns about taking HRT.
If you're unable to take HRT or decide not to, you may want to consider alternative ways of controlling your menopausal symptoms.
Alternatives to HRT include:
Several remedies (such as bioidentical hormones) are claimed to help with menopausal symptoms, but these aren't recommended because it's not clear how safe and effective they are.
Read more about alternatives to HRT.