Sleep is an essential part of being healthy and feeling like your best self. Yet, many of us struggle to get enough sleep at night. If you feel like you’re sleeping even worse after menopause, you might be right. Hormone changes can negatively affect sleep in many ways. However, estrogen replacement therapy may improve sleep quality for menopausal women. In this article, we’ll explore some of the evidence and why it’s important to address your sleep problems with our team of healthcare providers.
Studies Show Estrogen Replacement Therapy May Improve Your Sleep
Estrogen replacement therapy may improve your menopause-related sleep problems.
We have long known that sleep problems can increase after menopause. Women are already predisposed to insomnia compared to men, but after menopause, risks increase. For instance, sleep complaints shoot up from 12% in premenopausal women to approximately 40% for women of menopausal age, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Many women experience insomnia during menopause. Frequent daytime fatigue is also another common symptom. In addition, menopause can increase your risk for many sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome (RLS). Many women also experience poor REM sleep.
A lot of these issues may be due to hormone changes during menopause, particularly low estrogen and progesterone. Therefore, many scientists have looked at the effects of estrogen replacement therapy on sleep and whether it can help menopausal women sleep better.
Much of the evidence suggests that hormone replacement therapy can improve sleep. For instance, one 2017 study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal, Menopause, found that low dose hormones during menopause improved sleep quality for women who recently entered menopause.
We’ll look at some other studies later in this article that suggest that estrogen may improve sleep after menopause as well. However, these results are promising that estrogen replacement therapy may be able to reduce many sleep symptoms associated with menopause.
How Low Estrogen & Progesterone Affect Sleep for Menopausal Women
Why might estrogen replacement therapy be so beneficial for sleep quality after menopause? To understand this, it’s important to know how menopause affects sleep, especially through two hormones: estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen and progesterone are key hormones that control menstruation and pregnancy. During menopause, these hormones start to fluctuate and decline until you stop having a period. This causes many symptoms, including things like hot flashes, mood changes, and vaginal dryness. Hormone levels during menopause can also interfere with your sleep.
Hormones May Affect Your Circadian Rhythm & REM Sleep
Researchers are still studying how and why low estrogen and progesterone may interfere with good quality sleep. However, it may be due to changes in your circadian rhythm and REM sleep. These are both essential for good quality sleep.
Circadian rhythm is like your body’s internal clock. It tells you when you should sleep and when you should be awake in a 24-hour period. Many things can influence your circadian rhythm, including light. Your hormones may also affect your circadian rhythm, such as how estrogen and progesterone control menstruation.
Some studies have even found that estrogen can affect REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement and is one of the deeper stages of sleep. REM sleep stimulates areas of the brain necessary for dreaming, memory retention, emotional processing, and learning. One study from 2013 found that estrogen may play an important role in REM and non-REM sleep in rats.
Therefore, estrogen and progesterone themselves may influence the processes in your body responsible for quality sleep.
Menopause Symptoms May Disrupt Sleep
In addition, many menopause symptoms can also interfere with sleep, further compounding the problem. Menopause can come with many distressing symptoms, including:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Frequent urination
All these symptoms can also disrupt sleep. Hot flashes and night sweats can make it hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. Anxiety may have your mind racing, or even cause fast breathing and heart rate that make it feel impossible to sleep. Depression often causes insomnia. Frequent urination can cause you to get up multiple times at night to use the bathroom, fragmenting your sleep and often making it hard to fall back asleep.
As you can see, many of the symptoms can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep during menopause.
Why is Sleep Quality Important?
You’ve been told sleep is important for your health, but it’s important to understand exactly why. Sleep helps repair your body and mind so it can function properly. Sleep quality is basically whether you’re getting enough restful sleep.
Poor sleep quality can cause many short- and long-term effects. In the short-term, it can cause mood changes like:
- Memory problems
- Difficulty staying alert
- Higher risk for accidents
- Poor quality of life
If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep, then you likely already know just how bad it can affect you and your entire day.
The long-term effects of poor sleep quality on your health. Some of these include an increased risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
In addition to these increased health risks, poor sleep can also seriously affect your appearance. Poor sleep can reduce the amount of collagen in your skin, which can lead to premature wrinkles. Poor sleep quality can also lead to permanent dark circles under the eyes. Both wrinkles and dark circles under the eye can make you look older and cause many people to feel self-conscious.
Therefore, it’s important for adults to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Also, if you frequently wake up feeling unrested, find yourself unable to sleep, or wake up frequently throughout the night, talk to our providers. We can help determine causes of your sleep problems and provide treatments to help you sleep better for your health and overall well-being.
How Estrogen Replacement Therapy Can Help Improve Sleep
If you’re having a hard time getting good quality sleep during menopause, it may be time to talk to our hormone doctor for help. Many studies have found that hormone therapy during menopause can improve many sleep symptoms you might be experiencing.
Estrogen Replacement Therapy May Increase Sleep Quality
As we’ve mentioned, many studies have looked at the effects of hormone therapy on sleep quality with positive results. In addition to the 2017 study where low dose estrogen replacement therapy helped improve sleep, there are many other studies that seem to confirm this.
For instance, one 2019 study also found that hormone therapy can help with sleep quality. In the study, the women received combination hormone therapy, which includes both estrogen and progesterone. Compared to the placebo group, the women using hormones saw a significant increase in self-reported sleep quality. The results were immediate and long-lasting, with the women seeing sleep improvements in just one month.
Estrogen Replacement Therapy Can Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
If it’s your menopause symptoms keeping you up at night, estrogen replacement therapy can help with that, too. Estrogen is one of the most effective treatments today for hot flashes and night sweats, which often lead to poor sleep. Hormone therapy can also help with many of the other symptoms that interfere not only with sleep, but your everyday life.
Research from 2008 found that hormone therapy during menopause has many positive effects on sleep, menopause symptoms, and even joint pain. In the study, the women who used hormone therapy were less likely to experience sleeplessness, hot flashes, night sweats, and joint pain, all of which can negatively impact sleep quality.
Therefore, estrogen replacement therapy might be the right choice for you if you’re sleeping poorly during menopause.
Find Solutions for Your Sleep at HerKare
Our team at HerKare is here to help you improve your overall health. If you’re going through menopause and dealing with unwanted symptoms like insomnia, poor sleep quality, hot flushes, and mood changes, get in touch with our healthcare team. We identify and treat underlying causes of your symptoms to help you feel your best. Whether you need estrogen replacement therapy for menopause sleep issues or need CPAP therapy for sleep apnea, we are here to help you get a good night’s sleep. Make an appointment now at one of our convenient clinic locations to learn how we can help you start feeling better.
Receiving ongoing women’s health care services is an important part of staying healthy at any age. Many women see the same gynecologist from their teen years throughout their adult life. However, you may find yourself looking for a new provider if your current gynecologist retires or moves away.
It’s essential to have a women’s health care team at your side to help you stay healthy for you and your loved ones.
Finding a new gynecologist can feel pretty daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ll go over some of the factors to consider when looking for a new health care team as well as the many benefits of choosing HerKare as your trusted women’s health clinic.
Your Gynecologist is Important for Women’s Health Care Throughout Your Life
Your gynecologist is an important part of your health care team. When you think of a gynecologist, you probably think of gynecological care like pelvic exams and Pap tests. However, they often provide so much more.
Gynecologists often look at your overall health and can help with many diagnostic and preventative needs. They frequently help you understand what types of tests and screenings you need at each phase of life, discuss your risk factors for common conditions, and also provide ongoing care for any symptoms or conditions you have.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you always have somewhere to turn for your health care needs. This can help you address and manage your health throughout your life.
How to Find a New Women’s Health Care Provider if Your Gynecologist Retires or Moves
If your gynecologist is retiring or moving, you might find yourself at a loss for where to turn for your women’s health care needs. In many cases, your current gynecologist may be the only one you have seen throughout your life.
When searching for a new gynecologist, it’s important to consider many different factors. This can help you choose the right person for your needs. Here are some tips we have for finding your new women’s health care provider:
Look for Great Reviews
One of the first things to check is how other people feel about your potential new providers. Checking out their reviews, both online and word-of-mouth, can help you get an idea of how they care for their patients.
Good reviews are typically a good sign that the women’s health care providers offer quality care and a good bedside manner. So, ask your friends and family members who they see and make sure to check reviews from other sources so you can get a sense of what to expect. Looking at other women’s experiences can also help you narrow down who to choose as your new providers.
Choose a Team that Makes You Comfortable
With any health care provider, it’s essential to choose people who help you feel comfortable. After all, your women’s health care team is who you will discuss many important aspects of your health with, including gynecological symptoms, menopause symptoms, and any conditions that you have.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your health or if you feel uneasy during exams, then it will be harder to get the care you need to stay healthy. Therefore, you want to choose providers that help you feel safe and able to talk about any part of your health.
Consider Your Current and Future Women’s Health Care Needs
One common mistake many women make when choosing a new women’s health care provider is selecting someone based only on their current health care needs. However, it helps to choose a team that can help you at every stage of life.
For instance, in your premenopausal years, you might need to discuss and manage birth control options. However, also consider that eventually you will need care for menopause through things like hormone therapy. Therefore, when choosing a new gynecological care provider, don’t forget to consider if they will be able to help you with menopausal care.
Why Choose HerKare Women’s Health Clinic As Your New Providers
There are many reasons women of all ages are choosing our women’s health clinic for their go-to source for health care. If your gynecologist retires or moves, consider our team for a continuum of care throughout your life. Here are some of the advantages of working with HerKare to address your health now and in the future:
Our Women’s Health Care Providers Offer Experienced Care for All Stages of Life, Including Menopause
Gynecological care is important at every stage of life, from puberty onward. Yet, your health care needs do change over time. One way we help women stay healthy is by providing customized health care that fits your needs at every phase of life.
Our team can help with everything from birth control management and breast exams to menopause treatment to help you at any age. This means you don’t need to worry about switching to different providers every time your health care needs change. We take care of you at any age.
Many Gynecologists Don’t Receive Training for Menopause Care – Choose Providers Who Understand
It’s important to note that our team providers menopause care because so many healthcare providers lack training on menopause. Some studies have even found that one in four of the women who seek help for their menopause symptoms don’t receive proper treatment. This may be due to the fact that many education programs for health care providers don’t include much training on menopause.
As a result, many providers don’t feel comfortable with the topic of menopause, aren’t familiar with the symptoms, and aren’t up to date on the treatment options available. Since menopause can come with many debilitating symptoms as well as increases for serious, life-threatening health conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis, it’s crucial to choose providers who do have experience with menopause care. When you choose HerKare as your treatment provider, you can rest easy knowing we offer complete care for your perimenopausal, menopausal, and postmenopausal years.
We Address Your Health as a Whole
Gynecological care is important, but it’s not the only thing you need to worry about. That’s why we offer comprehensive health solutions for women. We take a holistic approach to health care, meaning we look for underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
Our team offers treatment services for a wide range of health concerns, including sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Therefore, when you choose our women’s health clinic for your health care needs, we take care of your total health and well-being.
Never Worry About Being Left Without a Provider with Our Women’s Health Clinic
When an individual gynecologist retires or moves, their patients are often left in the lurch searching for a new provider. However, our patients continue to receive top quality health care solutions at every step of the way. If one of our providers moves or retires, then you get peace of mind that there will be someone else to seamlessly step in and continue to provide you with the care you need.
Get Women’s Health Care at Multiple Locations
We’ve talked a lot about gynecologists moving, but what happens if you need to relocate? The good news is that we have multiple locations to serve you with caring, quality women’s health care. You can find us in locations throughout Texas to continue to receive great care from our team.
Get Compassionate, Quality Women’s Health Care from HerKare
For your single source for women’s health care, choose our team at HerKare. We are a women’s health clinic dedicated to empowering women to take control of their health. Our providers make sure you feel heard and help you through personalized treatment plans. Take care of yourself today, contact us now to make an appointment at one of our convenient clinic locations.
Hormone replacement therapy is commonly prescribed to help with menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. However, it may also have other positive effects on your overall health and quality of life.
Hormone replacement therapy may help protect you against many serious health issues.
In fact, there’s a lot of evidence out there that suggests it may help protect you from many serious health conditions, including top causes of death among women in the U.S. This begs the question, could hormone replacement therapy (HRT) actually save your life?
Of course, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of HRT for you personally with one of our providers. However, a lot of studies do show positive effects of taking hormones around the time of menopause. In this article, we’ll explore some of the research behind hormone therapy’s potentially life-saving outcomes for menopausal women.
Hormone Replacement Therapy After Menopause Lowers Risk of Death for All Causes
Several studies have looked at the association between hormone therapy and all-cause mortality, which is death by any cause. One 2018 study analyzed results from the Women’s Health Initiative, which was a large menopausal hormone therapy trial conducted in the U.S.
The researchers in the 2018 study looked for risks for all-cause mortality in an 18 year follow up of the women in the study. The researchers looked at one group who used hormone replacement therapy and another that didn’t.
In the study, the researchers found that menopausal HRT was not associated with a higher risk for mortality of any cause, including cardiovascular- or cancer-related death. In addition, the data showed that women taking hormones had fewer deaths from COPD and dementia.
One important distinguishing factor was that most of the women in the study used hormone replacement therapy for a relatively short amount of time and started taking hormones close to the time of menopause. The women the researchers studied took combination hormone therapy (estrogen plus progesterone) for about five years, while the estrogen-only group took hormones for about seven years.
Current evidence shows that, for most women, the benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the risks as long as they begin therapy within 10 years of menopause and younger than age 60.
Hormone Therapy Can Help Reduce Risks For Top Causes of Death in Women
Additionally, hormone replacement therapy can help reduce many risks from health conditions, including some of the top causes of death for American women.
According to the CDC, the top killers of women include:
- Heart disease
- Chronic respiratory diseases
- Flu & pneumonia
- Kidney Disease
Hormone replacement therapy may reduce risks of development and complication for many of these common causes of death in women. Let’s look at some of the evidence:
Estrogen Replacement Therapy May Reduce the Risk for Heart Disease – The #1 Killer of Women
Currently, heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the U.S. What many women don’t know is that menopause may increase the risk for developing heart disease, likely due to lower estrogen levels in the body.
Estrogen affects practically every tissue in the body, including in the cardiovascular system. Many doctors believe that estrogen plays a protective role for the cardiovascular system, which may explain why women on average develop heart disease much later than men.
Hormone replacement therapy can have many positive effects for your heart health, including increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and helping the blood vessels relax and reduce constriction. Therefore, taking estrogen during menopause may be beneficial for your heart health.
Though, there is a drawback as well. Estrogen may also increase the risk for blood clots. Therefore, it’s important to talk about specific risk factors to your cardiovascular health with our providers to determine if estrogen replacement therapy Is right for you.
Hormone Replacement Therapy May Preserve Lung Function As You Age
Chronic respiratory diseases are another common cause of death in women. HRT may also help reduce the risk of these serious conditions.
Lung function naturally declines as we get older. Our lungs essentially peak in our mid-twenties and then gradually decline over time. Women often see accelerated reduction in lung function after menopause, likely due to changing hormone levels.
However, studies show that HRT may improve lung function decline over time. One study from 2017 did a 20-year follow up to look at lung function for women using hormone replacement therapy. They found that the women who used HRT had better lung function scores compared to women who didn’t use hormones. The researchers concluded this may be particularly important for women at risk for chronic respiratory issues.
HRT May Reduce Risks for Neurodegenerative Diseases like Alzheimer’s
Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s are all another risk to your health as you age. However, there is evidence that hormone therapy may be associated with lower rates of these diseases.
For instance, one 2020 study found that taking estrogen replacement therapy reduced the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease compared to women who never used HRT in the study.
In addition, other research has found that hormone therapy for menopause decreases the risk for several neurodegenerative conditions. In one study from 2021, researchers found that women who used HRT for six years or longer were 79% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and 77% less likely to develop any neurological condition during the study follow up.
Therefore, estrogen replacement therapy may help protect your brain as you age, which is essential, as conditions like Alzheimer’s are a common cause of death for women in the United States.
Estrogen Replacement Therapy May Lower Diabetes Risks
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that commonly causes early death. This is where you have chronically high blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious damage throughout your body, including to the nerves and blood vessels.
Medical studies have also found that HRT during menopause may help improve diabetes outcomes. Estrogen may reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. It can also increase insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control for women with diabetes.
There may be many reasons for these positive effects, including that estrogen can help reduce body fat and improve body fat distribution. However, it may also aid with insulin secretion from the pancreas and help your body use insulin more effectively on a cellular level.
Hormone Therapy can Improve Kidney Function
Kidney disease is another serious concern for women’s health. Your kidneys are responsible for removing toxins from the blood, turning them into urine so your body can get rid of them. Chronic kidney disease is another leading cause of death for women.
Hormone replacement therapy may also protect kidney function after menopause. Research from 2015 found that women who used hormone therapy after menopause had better kidney function. Maintaining hormone levels through HRT may help reduce the development and progression of kidney disease for postmenopausal women.
Therefore, this is another way that hormone therapy may help protect your health in your postmenopausal years.
Health Care & Hormone Solutions for Women at HerKare
Our providers at HerKare are here to help you maintain your health at every stage of life. We offer hormone replacement therapy solutions for menopause to alleviate your symptoms and your overall health.
Our goal is to provide women with a space where they feel empowered to take charge of their health. That’s why we offer convenient, affordable health care for women. Contact us today to make an appointment at one of our clinic locations!
If you have menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes, you might be wondering what treatments are available. Many women use estrogen replacement therapy to reduce symptoms and side effects of menopause. However, some people wonder if phytoestrogens, also known as plant estrogens, are a good alternative to hormone therapy. We’ll explore this question and recent research on phytoestrogens in this article.
You can find phytoestrogens in many foods, but they may not be enough to replace estrogen replacement therapy as a menopause treatment.
What is Estrogen Replacement Therapy?
Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is a common treatment option for women with menopause symptoms. As you reach menopause, your hormone levels start to decline, including estrogen and progesterone. This is what causes your periods to stop. However, low hormone levels can also lead to menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood changes, and vaginal dryness. Lower estrogen levels during menopause can also increase your risk for other health conditions, like heart disease, osteoporosis, and strokes.
Estrogen replacement therapy is a treatment where you take medications to increase the estrogen levels in your blood. This can alleviate many of the symptoms and health risks of menopause. In fact, ERT is considered one of the most effective treatment solutions for menopausal hot flashes.
There are many kinds of estrogen replacement therapies or modalities to choose from. Medications can come in patches, pills, injections, and many other forms. You also typically have the choice between synthetic and bioidentical versions.
What is Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?
Our providers at HerKare typically use bioidentical hormone therapy to help with menopause symptoms. Bioidentical hormones are identical to the type of estrogen your ovaries naturally produce. Scientists use estrogens found in plants and alter them to match human estrogen. By contrast, synthetic estrogens are not the same molecular structure as natural estrogen, which means that your body uses them slightly differently. Many people prefer bioidentical hormones because they are molecularly identical to the natural hormones that your body produces on its own.
What are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like chemicals found in plants. In fact, bioidentical hormones often start out as phytoestrogens extracted from different sources like wild yams, cactus, and soy plants. Professionals in medical labs then convert these to bioidentical forms of estrogen and other hormones.
Phytoestrogens are similar to the estrogen you make in your ovaries but do have some differences. For instance, phytoestrogens can bind to the estrogen receptors in your body. However, they do typically have weaker effects compared to human or bioidentical estrogen.
Soy Offers Higher Levels of Phytoestrogens
There are many sources of phytoestrogens, including flaxseeds, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Soy is a food that is high in phytoestrogens. Specifically, soy offers high levels of isoflavones, which is the most potent type of phytoestrogen.
Many people believe soy has amazing benefits because cultures that typically have high soy diets also tend to have lower rates of heart disease, longer lifespans, fewer menopause symptoms, and other positive health markers. However, soy is still being studied and its effects on the body are complicated. There are still many questions when it comes to soy, including whether it’s beneficial or safe to eat it in large quantities.
As far as how soy compares to estrogen replacement therapy for menopause symptoms, the evidence is inconclusive. We’ll get into some of the recent research done on phytoestrogens, but keep in mind that a lot of the evidence regarding soy and hot flashes is conflicting.
Can Phytoestrogens Replace Estrogen Replacement Therapy for Menopause?
The big question many have is whether you can simply eat more foods with phytoestrogens (or take phytoestrogen supplements) instead of starting estrogen replacement therapy. Scientists are still researching phytoestrogens and the role they play. However, a lot of the research has been disappointing. Here are some things you should know about the results of phytoestrogen studies for menopause symptoms:
The Evidence is Conflicting on Whether Phytoestrogens Help Menopause Symptoms
As we mentioned, research is still ongoing, but a lot of the studies have conflicting results. Some studies have found positive effects from phytoestrogens, with some women noticing improvement in their hot flash symptoms. However, other studies have found no difference between phytoestrogens and placebo. Also, even the positive studies often don’t offer similar results. For instance, while some have found over a 50% reduction in the number and severity of hot flashes with phytoestrogens, others have found small reductions of just one hot flash per day for women who suffer from on average 10 to 12 each day. Therefore, a lot of the evidence for phytoestrogens is up for debate.
Phytoestrogens May be Anti-Estrogenic
Another potential issue with taking phytoestrogens is that they can actually be anti-estrogenic. This basically means that they may block estrogen receptors or reduce how much estrogen your body produces.
For one, phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors, which can block them from the real estrogen in your blood. Since phytoestrogens have much weaker effects than human estrogen, this could affect the cells in your body and your overall health.
What’s more, too many phytoestrogens could lead to lower estrogen levels overall. To understand why, let’s go over a quick crash course on how your body produces estrogen: The hypothalamus is part of your brain responsible for controlling sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. When it senses that you have low estrogen in your blood, it sends a signal to the pituitary gland, which releases follicle stimulating hormone. This hormone reaches your ovaries and causes them to increase estrogen production.
However, phytoestrogens can actually disrupt this process. In some cases, your hypothalamus may not realize that your body needs to produce more estrogen because it believes that the phytoestrogens are human estrogen. Therefore, many women may experience even lower estrogen levels when eating a diet high in phytoestrogens or taking phytoestrogen supplements.
Estrogen Replacement Therapy is Still the Recommended Treatment for Menopause Symptoms
Because of the lack of evidence and conflicting research results, many scientists now believe that the benefits of phytoestrogens have been overstated. Currently, estrogen replacement therapy is still the go-to treatment option for women with hot flashes and menopause symptoms. ERT has been shown time and time again to be effective at reducing hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause. This form of hormone therapy has also been well studied for decades. As such, many health care providers recommend using estrogen replacement therapy for your menopause symptoms unless there is a reason you can’t, such as a history of breast cancer, liver disease, or having a high risk for blood clots.
Of course, every woman is different, so it’s important to talk to our providers about your options. If you’re currently taking phytoestrogen supplements, let our providers know. Our team can discuss the benefits and risks to help you determine whether to keep taking them. Our goal is to help you improve your health as a whole and feel your best.
Find Treatment Solutions at HerKare
Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you find personalized solutions to improve your health. We offer health care for women at every stage of life. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, visit one of our convenient clinic locations to discuss your options and find treatment solutions that work well for you. Make an appointment today to get started!
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, so talk to our women’s health care providers about preventing and treating hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a common form of hepatitis and there is currently no vaccine to prevent it. In this article, we’ll discuss what hepatitis C is and what women should know about this common but serious infection.
Talk to Our Women’s Health Care Providers about Hepatitis C for Hepatitis Awareness Month
Talk to our women’s health care providers about hepatitis C and what you can do to protect yourself.
One of the best ways to observe Hepatitis Awareness Month is to talk to our doctors about this disease. Ask our women’s health care professionals whether you should get tested for hepatitis C and how to prevent it. An estimated 40% of people with hepatitis C don’t know they have it and don’t know they should get tested. Knowing more about hepatitis can help you avoid infection, notice the signs of infection, and also seek early treatment if you think you may be infected. Make an appointment at one of our clinics and let’s talk about hepatitis and how to protect yourself.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C, sometimes called hep C for short, is a type of viral infection from the hepatitis C virus. It primarily affects the liver, which is responsible for many things in your body, including removing toxins from the blood and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The problem with hepatitis C is that it can cause damage to the liver over time.
Hepatitis C infections can be acute or chronic. An acute infection is short-term and your body’s immune system may be able to fight it off. However, more than half of people experience a chronic infection after being exposed to hepatitis C virus. Chronic hepatitis C is a long-term infection that can lead to many serious complications including scarring on the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure, and liver cancer. Today, there are many treatments available that, if used early, can help reduce these risks to your liver.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C often causes no symptoms. For some, symptoms only appear decades after infection due to serious liver damage. However, there are some symptoms you can keep an eye out for that may indicate a hepatitis C infection. Symptoms of hepatitis C infection include:
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Jaundice (yellow eyes or skin)
- Bruising or bleeding
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
If you notice these symptoms, talk to our women’s health care providers to identify underlying causes. It may help your doctor detect hepatitis C for early treatment.
How Does Hep C Spread?
How do you get hepatitis C? Hepatitis C typically spreads through infected blood. One of the most common reasons for hep C transmission is sharing needles from illicit drug use. However, there are many other ways you might contract hepatitis C. For instance, getting tattoos or piercings using unsanitary needles, working in healthcare where you may be exposed to infected blood, or even sharing personal care items that may be contaminated with small amounts of blood, like razors or nail clippers.
Hepatitis C can also spread through sex, especially if there may be blood present, like if you’re having sex during your period or if you experience tearing that causes light bleeding. This can create the blood-to-blood contact that can lead to a hepatitis C infection.
Less commonly, women can also spread hepatitis C to their babies during pregnancy and birth. Some estimate that the risk is about 6% per pregnancy for mothers with hep C. The good news is that it is typically treatable in babies when caught early.
Who is at Risk for Hepatitis C?
Anyone can contract hepatitis C. However, there are some people who are more at risk for hep C than others. For instance, about 75% of people with chronic hepatitis C were born between 1945 and 1965, with Baby Boomers having five times the risk of people born in other generations.
Here are some other factors that may increase your risk for hepatitis C:
- Illegal drug use, particularly drugs you inject
- People who work with blood and needles (like healthcare workers and tattoo artists)
- Receiving an organ transplant or a blood transfusion before July 1992
- Receiving clotting factor concentrates before 1997
- People receiving dialysis
If you have certain risk factors, our women’s health care providers may recommend testing for hepatitis C at least once, if not regularly. Our doctors can discuss your individual health circumstances with you to help you determine which screenings are right for you.
Information Our Women’s Health Care Providers Want You to Know About Hepatitis C
There are many things to know about hepatitis C. One of the best resources for information about hep C is your women’s health care provider at HerKare. However, we have some general information that we think is important for you to know for Hepatitis Awareness Month:
Your Risk for Serious Hep C Complications Increases after Menopause
One thing many people don’t realize about hepatitis C is that menopause can affect the infection. Estrogen may play a role in reducing how quickly the virus replicates, which can help protect you from liver damage and other issues associated with a chronic hep C infection. However, when estrogen levels drop during menopause, this can lead to a quick worsening of your condition. Hepatitis C typically progresses slower in pre-menopausal women than men, but once you reach menopause, you can see a rapid progression in symptoms and liver damage. So, consider scheduling a hep C test before you reach menopause. This way, you can seek treatment before your natural estrogen levels decrease.
Hepatitis C Can Affect Hormonal Birth Control
If you haven’t reached menopause yet, you might use hormonal birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, if you have hepatitis C, it may make your birth control less effective and increase the risk for failure. This is because the liver is responsible for breaking down hormonal birth control so your body can use it to prevent unwanted pregnancy. If you think you have hepatitis C, talk to our women’s health care providers about your birth control options.
Hepatitis C is Treatable
The good news is that hepatitis C is treatable. Treatment may look different for everyone, but it typically includes antiviral medications for 8 to 12 weeks. These medications can help stop the virus from multiplying and spreading to other cells in your liver. For many patients, these medications can actually make it so the virus isn’t detectable in their blood. Patients that reach this phase are considered cured from hepatitis C. Even for those that don’t become cured, these treatments can reduce and suppress the virus.
What Tests Can Our Women’s Health Care Providers Run to Detect Hepatitis C?
Many women actually discover that they have hepatitis C after normal blood work during an annual checkup. The blood work may show high levels of liver enzymes, which typically point to inflammation in the liver. If your doctor suspects this may be due to hepatitis C, they may recommend a hepatitis c virus antibody test to see if there are antibodies to the virus in your blood.
Current recommendations are that all adults should be tested at least once in their lifetime. Experts also recommend pregnant women and people with higher risk factors should also be tested for hepatitis c. Talk to our women’s health care providers about your health and whether you need to get tested for hep C.
Find Quality, Compassionate Women’s Health Care at HerKare Clinics
For quality health care and a team that listens to you, visit one of our convenient HerKare locations. We are a women’s health clinic run by women for women to provide you with the health care services you need to feel your best. From preventative checkups to finding underlying causes of your symptoms, we are here to help you. Our providers offer quality care to help empower women regarding their health. Make an appointment today to experience the HerKare difference.
If you’re considering hormone therapy for menopause symptoms, you may have noticed that most doctors recommend taking progesterone replacement therapy with estrogen unless you’ve had a hysterectomy. Many people wonder why this is. You might wonder if you really need progesterone to treat menopause symptoms like hot flashes. Let’s talk about why our providers frequently prescribe both progesterone and estrogen for women in menopause.
What is Progesterone Replacement Therapy?
Progesterone replacement therapy may be an important part of your menopause care plan.
Progesterone replacement therapy is just like any other hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in that it supplements and replaces natural levels of a hormone in your body. In this instance, the hormone is progesterone. Like other types of HRT, it comes in many forms and doses. For women who still have their uterus, progesterone is almost always prescribed with estrogen therapies.
What Does Progesterone Do?
Progesterone is a type of sex hormone in your body, like estrogen and testosterone. Many people refer to progesterone as the “pregnancy hormone,” as it’s important for making the uterus a good environment for a fertilized egg. It also does many other things during pregnancy, like helping your breasts get ready to produce breast milk.
However, progesterone has many other functions in the body. Progesterone and estrogen work in tandem to regulate the menstrual cycle before menopause. Estrogen grows the uterine lining (the endometrium) and helps your body get ready for ovulation. Progesterone, on the other hand, helps prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg and, if you don’t become pregnant, levels drop and cause you to have your period.
During menopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop and become more sporadic. This is what causes irregular periods and other symptoms associated with perimenopause. As you produce less and less, you stop having periods altogether and reach menopause.
Progesterone Replacement Therapy Paired with Estrogen for Menopausal Women
Fluctuating and declining hormone levels are the cause behind menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and sleep problems. These symptoms can range from bothersome to debilitating for some women. If you experience symptoms that interfere with everyday life, our hormone doctor may recommend starting a hormone replacement therapy regimen to help reduce your symptoms. If you still have your uterus, you will likely need to take both progesterone and estrogen for menopause treatment. This is also known as combination hormone replacement therapy.
Why You Need Both Estrogen and Progesterone if You Still Have Your Uterus
You might be wondering why progesterone replacement therapy is so important if you still have your uterus. The reason is that estrogen alone, while effective for treating many menopause symptoms, can cause the lining of your uterus to become too thick. Before menopause, the uterine lining thickens and then your body sheds it during your period, but this process stops after your last period. The problem is, if the uterine lining becomes too thick, it can increase the risk for endometrial cancer. Therefore, estrogen-only therapy may increase your risk for uterine cancer.
Progesterone comes to the rescue here because it stops the thickening process. This hormone keeps estrogen in balance to reduce the uterine cancer risks associated with estrogen replacement therapy. Therefore, if you still have a uterus, progesterone replacement therapy is essential for reducing risks associated with estrogen-only treatments.
Are There Risks of Estrogen and Progesterone Replacement Therapy?
Like any other medication or treatment, there are risks to taking combination hormone replacement therapy. Specifically, researchers believe that higher progesterone levels can increase the risk for breast cancer. Data from the Women’s Health Initiative suggest that combining progesterone and estrogen can increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer by about one-tenth of a percent per year.
While the risk is relatively low, it’s important to weigh this drawback against the potential benefits of combination therapy. Also, many experts suggest not taking progesterone unless needed to reduce risks of uterine cancer from estrogen-only treatments. Though, it’s important to understand that hormone replacement therapy is a really individualized treatment. There is no one approach that fits all women. Therefore, you should talk about your individual circumstances with our providers.
Is Progesterone Replacement Therapy Ever Prescribed On Its Own?
We’ve talked a lot about combining estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms. However, you might be wondering if progesterone is ever used on its own for menopause. This isn’t a very common treatment plan because most menopause symptoms are due to low estrogen levels. However, some studies have found that progesterone alone can help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and other common symptoms of menopause. Still, estrogen replacement therapy is currently the most effective option for treating these symptoms for menopausal women, which makes it the go-to treatment solution.
Who Doesn’t Need Progesterone Replacement Therapy for Menopause Symptoms?
Not everyone needs to take progesterone with estrogen for hormone replacement therapy. In fact, estrogen alone comes with fewer long-term risks for women who do not have a uterus. In these cases, our providers may recommend estrogen-only therapy because there is no need to worry about the increased risk for endometrial cancer. As we mentioned, the risk of adding progesterone to your treatment regimen is a slightly increased risk for breast cancer. Therefore, if you have had a hysterectomy, typically we recommend estrogen-only options to reduce this risk.
How Does Combination Estrogen and Progesterone Replacement Therapy Work?
If your hormone doctor prescribes combination hormone replacement therapy, this means you will take both estrogen and progesterone to help treat your menopause symptoms. There are a couple of different ways to go about this. One may work better for you than the other. Our doctors can discuss your individual needs and find a treatment plan that works best for you. However, here are some things to know about continuous and cyclical menopausal hormone therapy:
Continuous Combination Hormone Replacement Therapy
Continuous combination hormone therapy means you take both estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy for treatment. This option is where you take both bioidentical hormones every day to reduce symptoms and health risks during menopause. This often makes treatment simpler and easier to use for many people, as the treatment is the same each day. Continuous HRT also reduces or eliminates vaginal bleeding, which can occur with cyclical hormone therapy.
Cyclical hormone therapy looks a little different for everyone, and there are many ways to go about this treatment plan. For instance, some women take estrogen only for a certain period of time, usually about 14 days, then use progesterone and estrogen for about 11 days. For the remaining three to five days, they do not take hormones. The idea is to mimic hormone levels during an average menstrual cycle. However, other women take estrogen every day for several months (usually about three months) and then take progesterone replacement therapy with estrogen for about two weeks or so after that time. Your hormone doctor can help you determine if this type of hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
One of the benefits of cyclical HRT is that it can reduce your exposure to progesterone over time, which may help offset some of the risks associated with progesterone replacement therapy. However, some of the disadvantages include a more complicated treatment plan to remember and maintain, as well as possible menstrual-like bleeding on the days you take progesterone and estrogen together. So, it’s important to discuss the options with our providers and find the option that works best for you.
Get Individualized Care from an Experienced Hormone Doctor at HerKare Women’s Clinics
Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you improve your health and quality of life through personalized treatment plans. We understand the need for individualized care tailored to you and your lifestyle. Our providers work hard to find underlying causes of your symptoms and identify treatment solutions that work well for you. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, know that our team is here to help you find relief. Book an appointment today at one of our convenient locations to talk to our doctors about your symptoms and treatment options!