How Long Does it Take HRT to Work?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to help people going through the menopause. While each treatment technically starts working as soon as you’ve taken it, it can take some time before you notice the full effects. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about HRT and how long it takes to affect you.

How Long Does it Take HRT to Work?

Many women report a difference in their symptoms within a few weeks of treatment on HRT. It can take around 3 months to get the best effect from hormone therapy, so stick with it if you don’t see immediate results.

The time it takes for HRT to work depends on each woman. Several factors can contribute to this, such as:

  • the severity of your symptoms
  • if you are taking your treatment properly (every day and at the correct dose)
  • other medications you are taking
  • the type of HRT you are using, such as tablets, patches, or topical HRT
  • other health conditions

It can also take time for your body to adjust to a new medication. If you still see no change in your menopause symptoms after 3 months of consistent HRT, speak to your doctor.

What Should I Expect When I Start HRT?

As you take HRT, you should expect to feel relief from the symptoms of menopause. They may go away or become easier to manage as you continue to take HRT.Common menopausal symptoms that HRT can help with include:

  • mood swings
  • hot flushes
  • night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • decreased sex drive
  • headaches or migraines
  • skin changes, such as itchy, dry skin

What are the side effects of HRT medication?

You may get some side effects when you first start hormone replacement therapy, but these should decrease over time. Most side effects are mild and can be treated at home. If your side effects are severe or impact your daily life, speak to your doctor straight away.

Common side effects of HRT medication include:

  • painful, sensitive, or tender breasts
  • irregular bleeding, this is common within the first few months of HRT and may look like a heavy period, light bleeding, or brown discharge
  • nausea (feeling sick), if you get nausea whilst taking HRT, try taking your tablets in the evening with a meal rather than in the morning on an empty stomach

Other side effects of HRT medication include:

  • backache
  • headaches (which can also be a menopause symptom)
  • bloating
  • feeling down or depressed
  • acne prone skin
  • leg cramps

What Should I Do if I Forget to Take My HRT Medication?

What to do if you forget to take HRT depends on whether you take an HRT tablet or use an HRT skin patch.

If you are taking tablets, do not take the missed dose. Instead, take the next dose and continue with your treatment as usual.

If you are using a skin patch, apply it as soon as possible. Then, go back to replacing the HRT patch on the same day of the week as you did previously. Do not apply more than one patch at a time.

Increasing or doubling your dose will not help if you have forgotten a dose and could just increase unpleasant side effects like nausea.

How Long Should I Take HRT for?

Most women stop taking HRT when their menopausal symptoms finish. This is usually 2 to 5 years after their first symptoms. Although menopause can last around 7 years, most women only have symptoms for 2 to 5 years. You should speak to your doctor before making changes to your treatment.

What happens when you stop taking HRT suddenly?

While HRT can be stopped at any time, stopping taking HRT suddenly can lead to unwanted side effects or your symptoms returning.

Gradually decreasing your dose is the best way to avoid unwanted symptoms and to give your body time to get used to working without HRT.

How Can I Get the Best Results From HRT?

To get the best results from HRT and reduce the risk of menopause symptoms, you should always take your HRT as prescribed by your GP. Try to take it at the same time each week, and to not forget or miss any doses.

You can also make small lifestyle changes to improve your health. These include:

  • eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • maintaining calcium levels to promote good bone health through supplements or foods like yoghurt, kale, and milk
  • stopping smoking
  • maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • doing regular exercise, especially stretching exercises like yoga, if you get leg cramps from HRT
  • reducing stress levels
  • getting enough sleep, a great goal is around 8 to 9 hours every night
  • avoiding large quantities of alcohol

Hormone Replacement Therapy FAQs

How long does HRT take to stop hot flushes?

Hot flushes and other symptoms should decrease or completely disappear within 3 months of starting HRT. Although your hot flushes may not entirely go away, you should notice a decrease in the time and severity of your symptoms.

How long does HRT take to stop anxiety?

Mood changes associated with menopause should improve or go away within 3 months of treatment.

If you had anxiety before menopause, HRT may not make anxiety go away. You might need another treatment for anxiety, such as talking therapy. Speak to your doctor if you still struggle with anxiety after 3 months of HRT.

Can you lose weight after starting HRT?

Menopause can cause a change in body shape and weight gain. This means HRT may help you to lose weight associated with menopausal symptoms.

To lose weight, you still need to make healthy lifestyle changes. HRT cannot make you lose weight by itself.

Does HRT make you look younger?

HRT can improve the condition of your hair, nails, and skin, which may help you look younger. There is not enough research into whether this is caused by HRT or because of a reduction in menopausal symptoms.

As menopause can make you feel tired, anxious, or not great, this can impact your appearance. After taking HRT and improving sleep quality and mood, you will notice a change in how you look and feel.

HRT cannot reverse the signs of ageing and isn’t a miracle cure for looking younger, but it may help.

Does HRT increase the risk of cancer?

There are 2 types of HRT: combined HRT (which replicates both oestrogen and progesterone) or oestrogen-only HRT. If you take oestrogen-only HRT, this does not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Combined HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer by a small amount. When taking combined HRT, your doctor will complete regular breast screening.

Systemic HRT (HRT that goes directly into your bloodstream) can reduce the risk of colon cancer and other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Combined HRT can also reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, or colorectal cancer.

Any side effects associated with a decreased or increased cancer risk will stop once you finish HRT.

Does HRT give you energy?

HRT does not contain anything that can give you more energy, but it may improve your energy in other ways. By reducing symptoms affecting your daily life, HRT allows you to get on with things without being distracted by hot flushes or mood changes.

A common symptom of menopause is difficulty sleeping, which HRT can improve. When you sleep better, you will have more energy for the things you enjoy.


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