Since a 2002 study found that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer, women have been looking for other ways to treat menopausal symptoms. One option that’s gaining popularity is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
BHRT uses hormones—typically estradiol, estrone, progesterone and testosterone—that are bioidentical to a woman’s natural hormones, rather than synthetic hormones used in traditional HRT.
Is BHRT any safer than traditional HRT? Researchers and doctors are still debating the answer.
Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Some studies have found several benefits to BHRT, so you may consider this treatment option if you’re experiencing problems with hot flashes, fatigue, vaginal dryness or other common menopausal symptoms.
The possible benefits of BHRT include:
- Defense against bone loss (osteoporosis)
- Improved energy levels
- Better sleep and fewer night sweats
- Heightened sex drive
- Relief from vaginal dryness
Risks of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
BHRT hormones are generally compounded by a pharmacist, which means there can be some variation in the amounts within each batch. While compounding pharmacies are held to certain standards, their prescriptions aren’t put under the same scrutiny as FDA-approved products.
The other concern is that based on their individual needs, patients are often given custom mixtures which are also not approved by the FDA. The individual ingredients may be, but not the final product.
As with any type of treatment, there are both positive and negative effects. If you’re considering bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, talk to your women’s doctor about your specific health needs and whether or not you are a good candidate for BHRT.