What Are the Pros and Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Although hormone replacement therapy is the most effective treatment for severe menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, night sweats, hot flashes and extreme mood swings, some women have an increased risk for breast or uterine cancer when using HRT, reports WebMD. HRT lowers the risk of osteoporosis in many women, but it increases the risks of stroke and heart attack. A woman with a genetic predisposition for cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and blood clots is not a good candidate for HRT.

A woman who begins HRT early in menopause may experience a lower risk for dementia but could increase her risk for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, according to Mayo Clinic. A doctor considers a woman’s age, her symptoms, and the duration and cause of her menopause when weighing the pros and cons of prescribing HRT for her. A woman takes the lowest dose required to treat her symptoms and only for as long as symptoms persist.

Certain antidepressants treat symptoms in perimenopausal and menopausal women, making them viable alternatives to HRT, explains WebMD. Vaginal estrogen and lubricants relieve dryness, and the black cohosh herb is effective for some women. Synthetic parathyroid hormone, bisphosphonates and a new formulation of synthetic estrogen called SERMs help prevent the thinning bones of osteoporosis, as do weight-bearing exercises, calcium and vitamin D supplements.