All women eventually go through menopause. The average age women start experiencing menopause is 51. However, depending on the woman, the menopause process can begin as early as 30 years old.
Menopause brings numerous symptoms and side effects. Because most women experience one or more of these symptoms, they turn to medication, home remedies, and even therapy to soothe them. Hormone replacement therapy is a popular form of relieving menopause symptoms.
Menopause generally occurs after your last menstrual cycle. This triggers a decline in the production of your reproductive hormones. Basically, your body is producing a significantly smaller amount of hormones.
There are three main stages of menopause; the first is perimenopause. Perimenopause usually lasts for about four years before menopause sets in. During this time, you may still experience irregular menstrual cycles but could start to notice some signs of menopause.
The next stage is menopause. As menopause sets in, you may start to experience various symptoms and side effects, including insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, thinning hair, painful intercourse, irritability, and more.
After menopause has run its course in your body, you will move into post-menopause. You are considered in post-menopause once twelve months have passed since your last period. During this last stage, your symptoms should decline in severity, but you may be at a higher risk of certain diseases. Women who have gone through menopause are at a greater risk for specific diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Explained
Hormone replacement therapy is used to treat menopausal symptoms. The name is self-explanatory – the therapy replaces the hormones that menopause causes you to stop producing. Menopause symptoms occur because of the decline in hormone production. When you replace those hormones, you alleviate those symptoms as well. In addition to reducing menopause symptoms, hormone replacement therapy can also reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
There are several types of hormone replacement therapies. Some involve only replacing estrogen hormones, while others involve replacing both estrogen and progestogen. Depending on your body’s needs, your doctor may recommend one over the other.
Each type of therapy may also involve different dosing and frequency. Hormone replacement therapy comes in pill form, patch form, cream form, and in the form of a vaginal ring. Again, your doctor may recommend one form over another.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy has many benefits. However, like any medical treatment, there may be some risks and/or side effects involved. Some studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy may put you at risk for cancer, blood clots, and stroke. With that said, risks vary depending on your medical history.
Doctors also say women who have experienced any of the following shouldn’t use hormone replacement therapy:
- Current pregnancy
- Heart attack
- Blood clots
- Liver disease
Scientists continue to conduct research on the potential risks of hormone replacement therapy. However, many experts agree that the benefits of hormone replacement therapy offset the risks.
Medicare and Hormone Replacement Therapy Coverage
Original Medicare may cover some forms of hormone replacement therapy. Medicare Part B may cover hormone replacement therapy in the form of a vaginal ring if your doctor codes it as medically necessary. However, if you receive hormone replacement therapy via pill or cream, Original Medicare will not cover it.
This is because Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs; Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Each Medicare Part D plan is different, so the drugs each plan covers vary. If your doctor prescribes a specific hormone replacement therapy drug, be sure to check your Part D plan’s formulary before leaving the doctor’s office. Your Part D plan may not cover that specific drug but may cover a different one.
Before starting hormone replacement therapy, be sure to discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor. Your doctor should be able to let you know which risks if any, you may have with hormone replacement therapy.