Is the Tide Changing Again Regarding Estrogen Therapy?
Questions regarding the health benefits of estrogen continue to remain largely unanswered, at least for women who are going through perimenopause, and women who have reached actual menopause. The Women’s Health Initiative Study (WHI) certainly hasn’t helped either. In fact, it did more to scare women away from estrogen than just about anything I can recall in recent memory, and rightly so, I think.
But, like so many medical research studies that are done, unless you take the time to read them word for word, or you are a medical professional “insider,” chances are they are nothing more to you than a bunch of medical mumbo-jumbo with no discernible meaning whatsoever. Here’s the long and the short of why the Women’s Health Initiative scared women away from estrogen:
Approximately 16,000 women participated in two studies. One group received estrogen and Prempro (a synthetic progesterone) and another group received a placebo. The study was abruptly halted because it was learned that women in this group had an increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer. They knew this because a number of women actually experienced these side effects.
The second study group only took estrogen. This study was also stopped early because these women also showed an increased risk for stroke, which means, again, some of the women in the study experienced strokes.
There are other important mitigating issues surrounding this study, which, depending on the point you wish to make regarding estrogen therapy, are important to understand. However, for my purposes, this basic information is adequate.
I recently interviewed Dr. Susan Baxter, PhD, and co-author of the book, The Estrogen Errors: Why Progesterone is Better for Women’s Health. Dr. Baxter is an ardent champion for women’s health issues, and in particular menopause. She strongly holds the opinion that menopause is a natural process which should in no way be medicalized or viewed as some sort of deficiency in a woman’s life cycle that needs to be “treated” with hormone replacement therapy.
According to Dr. Baxter, women benefit far more from progesterone during perimenopause and menopause than estrogen. Certainly, if the results of the WHI are any indication, she makes an excellent point.
Dr. Baxter expressed her concern that the medical community is now beginning to change their minds once again about estrogen therapy. A decision that she thinks is a mistake. In my own research and reading, I have also noticed that many healthcare providers are beginning to reconsider their position on the value of estrogen.
Dr. Mache Seibel, M.D., is one of those healthcare providers. In a recently published blog post at Huffington Post.com, Dr. Seibel suggests that perhaps we should take another look at estrogen. Dr. Seibel also cites the Women’s Health Initiative Study and gives his medical opinion on several important pieces of the study.
Given my recent conversation with Dr. Baxter, I definitely found Dr. Seibel’s blog post timely and interesting. As a women’s healthcare consumer advocate and writer, and as a woman who writes extensively on the subjects of perimenopause and menopause, I would like very much to have a solid “yes” or “no” to the question of the health benefits of estrogen.
Though the tide does seem to be changing once again, I’m not certain a clear cut answer will be available any time soon.
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.