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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment to relieve symptoms of the menopause. It replaces hormones that are at a lower level as you approach the menopause.

Benefits of HRT

The main benefit of HRT is that it can help relieve most of the menopausal symptoms, such as:

Many of these symptoms pass after a few years, but they can be 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.

Risks of HRT

Some types of HRT can increase your risk of breast cancer.

The benefits of HRT are generally believed to outweigh the risks. But speak to a GP if you have any concerns about taking HRT.

Read more about the risks of HRT.

How to get started on HRT

Speak to a GP if you're interested in starting HRT.

You can usually begin HRT as soon as you start experiencing menopausal symptoms and will not usually need to have any tests first.

A GP can explain the different types of HRT available and help you choose one that's suitable for you.

You'll usually start with a low dose, which may 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.

A GP will usually recommend trying treatment for 3 months to see if it helps. If it does not, they may suggest changing your dose, or changing the type of HRT you're taking.

Who can take HRT

Most women can have HRT if they're having symptoms associated with the menopause.

But HRT may not be suitable if you:

In these circumstances, alternatives to HRT may be recommended instead.

Types of HRT

There are many different types of HRT and finding the right 1 for you can be difficult.

There are different:

A GP can give you advice to help you choose which type is best for you. You may need to try more than 1 type before you find 1 that works best.

Find out more about the different types of HRT.

Stopping HRT

There's no limit on how long you can take HRT, but talk to a GP about how long they recommend you take the treatment.

Most women stop taking it once their menopausal symptoms pass, which is usually after a few years.

Women who take HRT for more than 1 year have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who never use HRT. The risk is linked to all types of HRT except vaginal oestrogen.

The increased risk of breast cancer falls after you stop taking HRT, but some increased risk remains for more than 10 years compared to women who have never used HRT.

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 a 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.

Side effects of HRT

As with any medicine, HRT can cause side effects. But these will usually pass within 3 months of starting treatment.

Common side effects include:

Alternatives to 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 are not recommended because it's not clear how safe and effective they are.

Read more about alternatives to HRT.