Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Really Necessary?
With all of the confusion and controversy surrounding hormone replacement therapy, many women choose to opt out of it all together. I can’t say that I blame them, frankly, because it sometimes feels like you need a PhD in medical science to make sense out of the claims, the warnings, and the voluminous amount of information available on the topic.
Of course, it would be a mite easier if the “experts” on the subject could get their act together and agree on whether it is actually helpful or not. But, I suppose hell will freeze over before that happens. So it’s probably safe to assume there will be no end to the controversy or confusion any time soon.
So, what should you do? Should you wade into the fray and take your chances? Or should you do like many of our mothers and grandmothers did, and just suffer through it? Believe it or not, many physicians today tell their patients to do just that – suffer through it.
Personally, I’m of two minds on the subject. On the one hand, I find the attitude of ‘suffering through it’ entirely dismissive. It’s as if the medical community has just thrown up its hands and said, “Whatever. Just get over it.” And believe it or not, this attitude is not new. It wasn’t too long ago – like during the 1970s to be exact – that many physicians believed menopause symptoms were a figment of most women’s imaginations.
Operating on the assumption that only “neurotic and unbalanced” women had menopause symptoms, many physicians simply sent women home with prescriptions for “mother’s little helpers” telling them to ride it out. Unfortunately, it’s not much different today. Physicians write prescriptions to women going through menopause for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication at an alarming rate. It is a multi-billion dollar business. One would think that we have progressed beyond the subtle sexism associated with these prescriptions, but alas, we clearly have not.
On the other hand, there are certainly plenty of women who do choose to suffer through it and ride it out. In the interest of full disclosure, I sort of “rode it out” too. At the time I was going through perimenopause, I didn’t know much about bioidentical hormones, and I wasn’t too keen on loading up on synthetic hormones. I did try several herbal remedies which, for the most part, didn’t do much for me at all, I will confess.
As I inched closer to actual menopause, I finally decided to use bioidentical progesterone to help with the heavy, flooding periods that drained me of any and all iron supplies I had in my body. It turned out to be a good decision. Once I started using it, the heavy cycles stopped cold. Within two years I became fully menopausal.
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if I had sought out bioidientical hormone replacement therapy, if I would have suffered less than I did. But none of that is either here or there now, and hind-sight is always 20/20 isn’t it?
Of course, none of this answers the original question: Is hormone replacement therapy really necessary? There are plenty of good arguments on both sides of the issue, and like everything else when it comes to your health, it is a highly personal decision.
It might also depend on where you are in this journey, whether perimenopausal, menopausal, or well into the post-menopausal years, because it will have a direct bearing on the recommendations of your physician. Personally, I would strongly recommend that you thoroughly educate yourself on the risks and benefits of either choice, and then once you make your decision, make it confidently and be at peace over it.
Posner, J. (1979). It’s All in Your Head: Feminist and Medical Models of Menopause (Strange Bedfellows). Sex Roles, 5, (2)
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