How to Stop Hormone Replacement Therapy… Safely!

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I've heard that long term HRT has health risks. How long is HRT recommended for?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) refers to the use of estrogen and progesterone, often prescribed to supplement the lower levels of these hormones that happens during menopause. HRT is very effective in relieving the discomforts of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. But studies now show increased risks of breast cancer, heart attacks, blood clots, strokes and dementia when taking HRT for long periods of time.

HRT is recommended now only for relief of severe menopausal symptoms, and for only short-term use, four years or less.

If you are on HRT and are ready to quit, or are concerned about long-term use, talk to your doctor. The two of you can work out a plan best for you and your situation.

Is it better to quit gradually or cold turkey?

Gradually cutting down your HRT doses over many months is recommended for women who have been taking HRT for more than a few months.

Most women find it easier to slowly decrease the dose of hormones over four to six months (or more if menopausal symptoms are still a problem at this time). This approach is close to what the body does naturally when it is going through menopause. Decreasing the dose of hormones by half every month is a reasonable way to stop taking HRT.

If you are on pills, you can ask your doctor for a lower dose pill to use in this process. Once you are on the lowest dose pill you can start taking a pill every other day, and then every third day, etc. until four to six months have passed.

Will my menopause symptoms return?

If you stop HRT suddenly it will not cause you serious harm, but you may be uncomfortable while your body gets used to the new lower hormone levels. If you stop HRT gradually and still have problems, then you may want to decrease the dose even more slowly. You may also want to explore other ways to deal with the changes menopause brings.

Where can I go for more information?