HRT (hormone replacement therapy) service
As you approach and go through menopause, the hormones your body naturally produces start to decline. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness, hot flushes and mood swings. HRT works by replacing these missing hormones to relieve these symptoms.
- Complete a short medical questionnaire
- Highlight a preferred treatment
- Doctor reviews your answers and notes your preferred treatment
Important: If your preferred treatment is not clinically suitable, your doctor will offer an alternative or advise you on what to do next.
HRT treatments available
- Elleste Duet (Conti)
- Evorel Conti
- Estradot and Utrogestan
- Evorel Sequi
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?
The menopause can cause some unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Reduced sex drive (low libido)
- Sleeping difficulties
HRT can help – severe menopausal symptoms can interrupt with everyday life, so it is important to seek treatment, so you can carry on with your daily activities. The symptoms which women mostly complain about are hot flushes and sweating, improvements in these can help to improve their quality of life.
HRT involves replacing natural hormones – most women take a combination of the oestrogen and progestogen hormones, while women who have had a hysterectomy and have no womb can take oestrogen on its own. The primary aim of HRT is to ‘top-up’ the body’s natural supply of hormones which stop being produced during the menopause.
The two main types of HRT are:
- For most forms of HRT – it is normally used in women who have had their womb removed don’t need progestogen, a hormone which protects the lining of the womb
- For vaginal HRT – it can be used by women with a womb and doesn’t include progesterone because it is applied locally to the vagina
- Involves a combination of oestrogen and progesterone
- Continuous combined HRT – includes taking the hormones together once-daily for 28 days continuously, doesn't include a withdrawal bleed
- Sequential combined HRT – includes taking oestrogen for 14 days, then both hormones for a further 14 days, results in a monthly withdrawal bleed
Can an online menopause test help me decide if I need HRT?
You can order a home test kit from Superdrug Online Doctor to see if you might be menopausal. Once you’ve got your results you could then either order vaginal HRT online or go to your GP to discuss starting other HRT treatments.
The home menopause test kit is simple – just use the kit to take a pin-prick blood sample. Then send your sample to our lab by post and your results will be sent to your account in 2-3 days. A Superdrug online doctor will give you advice based on your results.
This test kit isn’t recommended for you if you’re using hormonal contraception (like the pill, hormonal coil, injections etc). It also isn’t right for you if you’re already using HRT.
How can I get HRT?
You can order new and repeat courses of HRT from our online prescription service – HRT comes in different forms, including:
- Skin patches
- Vaginal creams, pessaries and rings
HRT is not right for everyone – you may not be suitable for HRT if:
- You have a history of the following cancers: Breast, Ovarian, Womb
- You have a history of blood clots
- You have high blood pressure which you do not receive treatment for
- You have liver disease
- You are pregnant
If you are not suitable for HRT – there are alternative available including:
- Lifestyle changes, including: Regular exercise, Eating a balanced diet, Cutting down on coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods, Trying to quit smoking
- Herbal remedies – it's not clear whether herbal treatments for HRT are safe or effective
What different types of HRT can I choose from?
Combination HRT tablets – these contain both oestrogen and progesterone. There are a variety of different tablets available, they are taken once-a-day and are effective at treating the short-term side effects of the menopause. Long-term complications may also be treated through the long-term use of HRT including reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Combined oestrogen and progestogen patches – these are applied once or twice a week on any area below the waist. The patches are effective at treating the short-term side effects of the menopause. Long-term complications may also be treated through the long-term use of HRT including reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Vaginal oestrogen – also known as 'local HRT'. It can come in several forms including:
All of which contain a small amount of oestrogen and are used to treat the specific symptoms where they are applied such as vaginal dryness or urinary symptoms.
Local HRT will not help with symptoms such as hot flushes or protect against long-term symptoms such as osteoporosis. However, unlike other forms of HRT, local HRT doesn’t have the same increased risks and so can be used by most women.
Is HRT the right choice for me?
In most cases, the benefits of HRT far outweigh the negatives – you can talk through any concerns you have with your GP. They will be able to advise you on the different types and forms of HRT. It will probably be your personal choice as to which type to try first.
HRT is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms – particularly hot flushes. Large studies have shown that HRT can significantly reduce the risk of fractures, improve vaginal dryness, sexual function, sleep patterns and improves aches and pains.
However, some of the clinical data shows downsides – some studies confirm the increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular health. Some studies have shown there may be an increased risk of stroke, whereas other studies state there may be heart health protective benefits of HRT.
There is evidence which shows HRT increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer which still means HRT is controversial. The NHS advises that each woman should discuss these risks alongside the benefits of HRT to establish what course of treatment will be best for them. Women who are already at an increased risk of cancer will be advised against taking HRT.
What are the side effects of HRT?
Side effects are possible – women can experience side effects when they first start taking HRT, these effects can last a few months. Individuals react differently to HRT, so one form is not better than another, it will just depend on how your body reacts to it.
The common side effects of HRT include:
- Breast tenderness
- Stomach pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Small increase in the risk of blood clots
- An increased risk of breast cancer
If you are experiencing side effects, you should consult your GP for advice.
HRT may also increase the risk of other medical conditions.
Endometrial cancer – women who have not had a hysterectomy and are postmenopausal are at an increased risk of endometrial cancer if they take oestrogen-only HRT.
Ovarian cancer – women taking HRT are also at a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer. Studies, including one which monitored 948, 576 postmenopausal women on a five year follow up, have confirmed this. For every 1000 women taking HRT 2.6 developed ovarian cancer over a five-year period, compared to 2.2 women who do not take HRT.
Blood clots – HRT tablets, not patches or gels, have been linked to an increased risk of developing blood clots.
Breast cancer – in August 2019, a study showing that the risks of breast cancer if you’re using HRT are higher than we originally thought. You can read more about this in this patient info leaflet.
It’s important to think about possible risks when choosing to use HRT, so we wanted to let you know about these new findings. This is something you can talk to your GP about at your next annual review, but you can also message our doctors from your account if you have any questions about this. You should also make sure that you’re going to your national breast cancer screening appointments, and do the breast cancer self-checks as well.
What is Menopause?
Menopause refers to the last menstrual period in a woman’s life, and it occurs due to loss of ovarian follicular activity. This can be defined once a woman has gone for 12 months without a period.
What causes menopause?
Menopause occurs when the supply of responsive oocytes (early eggs) is exhausted. Therefore the ovaries no longer release a monthly egg, and oestrogen levels (released by the ovaries) fall.
What age does menopause start?
The average age of menopause in the UK is 51. However, the period before menopause (called perimenopause), when women may experience menopausal symptoms, can begin some years before this.
What are the early signs of menopause?
Women will often note a change in their menstrual cycle to be the first sign of menopause/perimenopause.
What happens during menopause?
After the last menstrual period, oestrogen production from the ovaries falls, which causes changes in levels of other hormones released from the brain. The change in hormone levels can cause a wide variety of symptoms and affect a woman’s bone and cardiovascular health.
What Are The Symptoms Of Menopause (including Worst Symptoms)?
Symptoms can be...
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- low mood
- mood swings
- low lidido
- urinary frequency
- recurrent cystitis
- vagina dryness
It can also cause poor sleep, headaches, achy joints and dry or itchy skin. The severity of symptoms will vary between women, but many report severe sleep disruption as one of the most challenging symptoms experienced.
How does menopause change the brain?
Research is still ongoing into the effects of oestrogen deficiency and replacement on cognition. Many women do complain of poor memory or ‘brain fog’. It is uncertain if this is a direct effect or a knock on effect from other symptoms (such as poor sleep). There is ongoing research into menopause, hormone therapy, and later dementia or Parkinson’s disease.
How long does menopause last?
On average, menopausal symptoms last for 4 years after your last period. Some studies suggest symptoms can start three years before this point, giving an average duration of symptoms of seven years.
What are the signs of menopause coming to an end?
Menopause itself is a point in time that refers to your last menstrual period. If we look at menopause as a symptomatic phase that passes with time, the reduction in severity and frequency of symptoms indicates the symptomatic phase is coming to an end.
How to delay menopause?
There is evidence to show that smoking reduces the age of menopause, so stopping/avoiding smoking may help prevent earlier menopause. Having children and using contraception that suppresses ovulation is associated with later menopause.
Boseley, S. (2017). HRT won’t kill you – but menopausal women still face a difficult decision. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/15/hrt-hormone-replacement-therapy-wont-kill-you-but-menopausal-women-still-face-a-difficult-decision [accessed 13th March 2018].
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. (2019). Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). NHS. [online] Available at:https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/gynaecology/hormone-replacement-therapy.pdf[accessed 23th July 2020].
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NICE Guidelines. (2015). Menopause: diagnosis and management. NICE. [online] Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23/ifp/chapter/benefits-and-risks-of-hrt [accessed 13th March 2018].
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