What to Consider Before Starting Hormone Replacement Therapy

middle-aged woman cuddling her dog by a fence

Menopause was once called “the change of life,” and while current terminology differs, there is no question women experience plenty of changes once their period ceases permanently. While no longer worrying about pregnancy can be a plus, other changes may greatly affect a woman’s personal and professional life. Men go through a similar, albeit less dramatic, change known as andropause as their testosterone levels fall with age.

For both sexes, hormone replacement therapy could offer relief and let people like themselves again. However, each individual considering this treatment must take certain considerations into account before starting hormone replacement therapy.

Non-Instantaneous Results

Recipients should not expect hormone replacement therapy to bring instant results. It may take weeks, or even months before patients experience significant changes and relief from menopausal or andropausal issues.

These changes will occur, but hormone replacement therapy is not akin to a medication providing quick effects. Patients are monitored regularly by the doctor, and dosage adjustments are made as needed.

Delivery Methods

Patients can choose between various delivery methods for their hormone replacement therapy, and the best way is often up to personal preference. Women undergoing estrogen replacement therapy may choose between tablet, intradermal pellet, patch, gel, or cream forms.

Men, on the other hand, may receive testosterone replacement therapy via cream, patch, gel, or injection. The patient can change the method of obtaining their treatment by discussing the best substitute with the doctor.

Possible Side Effects

Most people do not experience issues with hormone replacement therapy, but side effects are always a possibility. Many of these side effects are temporary and either cease on their own or stop when the hormone dosage is lowered. For women, possible side effects of estrogen replacement therapy include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal bleeding

Possible side effects for testosterone replacement therapy for men include:

  • Aggression
  • Breast enlargement
  • Increased urination
  • Acne
  • Mood swings

Testosterone and Women and Children

Men taking testosterone in a topical form must make sure the treated area does not come into skin-to-skin contact with the women and children in their lives. If women and children are accidentally exposed, they should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Pregnant women are especially vulnerable, as testosterone exposure may cause birth defects. Men using topical testosterone products should cover the treated area and should not allow women or children to touch clothing or bedding that may have come into contact with topical testosterone.

Lifestyle Changes

Hormone replacement therapy requires certain lifestyle changes. Cigarette users should quit smoking, and patients should not drink alcohol excessively. It is also critical to exercise daily and reduce stress as much as possible. The doctor can supply each patient with a custom-tailored diet and exercise program, as optimal wellness is the true goal of hormone replacement therapy.