Hold That Pause
Hold That Pause

Estrogen: The New Come-Back Kid

A woman applying a hormone patch. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but there is a shift going on in the field of women’s health. Specifically, in the field of hormone health. The shift is back toward estrogen therapy for the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

In spite of my recent decision to use the Vivelle Dot, a bioidentical, transdermal estrogen patch, I haven’t been particularly supportive or completely trusting of this shift either. And truthfully, I am still not totally convinced that estrogen therapy doesn’t come with risks. These concerns are exactly why I chose the lowest possible dose of the Vivelle Dot estrogen patch, when I decided to use it.

Every drug comes with a risk, and I am cautious. 

My personal interest about the safety of estrogen for perimenopause and menopause symptoms, was piqued a couple of years ago, while doing some health writing for a nurse practitioner who regularly prescribes bioidentical estrogen for her patients.

She is a holistic practitioner, who was a proponent of bioidentical hormones long before they became vogue. Because of her passion and commitment to holistic and more natural approaches to hormone health, I was fascinated that she wasn’t afraid to prescribe estrogen to her patients, in the post- Women’s Health Initiative world. 

I am in regular contact with physicians and medical professionals, all of whom have their opinions on what the best treatments are for women in perimenopause and menopause. There are some points of agreement among them. But mainly disagreement, particularly as it pertains to estrogen.

What makes the disagreements so difficult for patients, is that all of these professionals cite credible research studies to support their position. For people like me, an intercessor who communicates health information to women, it is a very difficult place to be. I want to take a solid position on something, but it’s hard to know which side of the fence to come down on.

So I tread water.

By the time you reach my age – late 50s, and solid senior citizen status – you’ve seen a few things. I remember The Marlboro Man cigarette commercials on television in the 60s. In the 70s, people smoked in office buildings, airplanes, restaurants, and even hospitals. Today’s “Honey Smacks” cereal was originally and unapologetically called “Sugar Smacks.” McDonald’s burgers and fries were beloved by all, and a red food dye ring around your mouth from Kool-Aid in the summer was the mark of a happy kid. 

It’s safe to say I’ve seen a few “health trends” and I’ve watched the pendulum of what is considered healthy swing back and forth several times.

Forty years ago, thanks to the book “Feminine Forever” by Manhattan gynecologist, Robert Wilson, women wouldn’t consider not taking estrogen during perimenopause and menopause. A notion which feminist researchers began to challenge with vigor during the 70s and 80s; and which the Women’s Health Initiative study shut down cold, in 2002. 

Now, in 2013, physicians are questioning whether the issues and concerns surrounding the Women’s Health Initiative study were really worthy of all of the brouhaha, and are reconsidering estrogen therapy for women in perimenopause and menopause once again.

Personally, I spend a lot of time sighing with frustration at the lack of consistent answers – perhaps you’ve noticed. And maybe it’s foolish of me to even expect that there should be consistent answers. All I know is that women going through perimenopause and menopause want to know what to do. 

They want to know if estrogen is good for them or bad for them. So it would be nice if the medical community and researchers could get their act together and agree on something for a change. It sure would make my job a lot easier.

Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.

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Tags: Hormone Therapy

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About the Author

Magnolia is dedicated to empowering women to take responsibility for their own health.