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Starting & Stopping Hormone Replacement Therapy | Risks & Side Effects

By September 20, 2022June 26th, 2023No Comments

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Like an instinct when the body feels “down,” you seek help from medical attention, hoping that your condition will get better.

And then, you found hormone therapy (HRT) as a relief for your troubles.

However, treatment only helps you eliminate the symptoms, not the root of the ailment. This means that you’ll need to stop the therapy at some point later.

So what should you do when considering stopping HRT? Are there any side effects of stopping HRT suddenly? Read on to find out.

RELATED: What Are the Effects of Testosterone Therapy on Heart Disease?


“Weaning Off” Hormone Therapy – Learn Side Effects of Stopping HRT Suddenly

What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

The “golden years,” or late adulthood, are supposed to be a time of freedom and relaxation when we can do whatever we want to make up for our “hustle and bustle” youth.

Unfortunately, for some people, aging can be something not so likely to be embraced.

As we age, our bodies slowly lose many youthful characteristics that our younger selves used to have. Among those, hormone decline is a mishap that all aging women experience. That’s why women approaching menopause around 45 need therapy to help them maintain their healthy hormone levels and avoid the bothersome symptoms.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an efficient, safe, and simple treatment option that aims to normalize hormone levels for menopausal women. The purpose of bringing hormones back to an average level is to alleviate or even eliminate menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, or sleep problems.

There are many different types, routes of administration, and treatment plans for HRT.


HRT Types

Most women take a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. However, women without a uterus can take estrogen alone. There is no therapeutic benefit in prescribing progesterone to women who have had uterus surgery.


Routes of Administration

  • Tablets
  • Skin patches
  • Gels and vaginal creams
  • Injections
  • Pellets


HRT Treatment Plans

You can take HRT treatment continuously or in cycles where you take regular estrogen but progesterone at intervals.


How Do You Start and Stop HRT?

So you’re in your 40s and have started feeling the changes within your body. You’re having those “hard” days when you can’t be yourself or deal with the things you usually handle well.

That’s the onset of menopause, and you need HRT.


Starting HRT

You can start HRT as soon as you notice the first signs of menopause. Menopause usually occurs from age 45 to 55, so initiating HRT before or within this age range is recommended.

The sooner you start, the better!

To determine the appropriate regimen of HRT, you’ll need to check your conditions with your doctor or healthcare provider. In addition, since HRT aims to normalize the hormone levels in your body, it’s necessary to find out which hormone is causing your menopausal symptoms.

You’ll start HRT with a low dose at first, then gradually increase it at a later stage. The initial treatment will typically last three months to see if it helps. If the therapy doesn’t work for you, your doctor or healthcare provider may suggest changing the dose or type of HRT.


Stopping HRT

Most women stop HRT as soon as their troublesome menopausal symptoms are gone, usually after a few months or several years.

When you decide to “wean off” HRT, you can choose to do so gradually or suddenly. However, slowly decreasing your HRT dose is recommended so that you’re less likely to experience the recurrence of your menopausal symptoms.


Side Effects of Stopping HRT Suddenly


But what may happen if you stop HRT all of a sudden?

When you abruptly discontinue HRT, your hormone levels rapidly fluctuate from high to low. As a result, the bothersome symptoms of menopause may reappear.

A sudden comeback of the annoying symptoms is what people call “cold turkey,” or the period of suffering after you stop taking a drug or therapy. If this scenario happens to you, contact your doctor or healthcare provider and consider starting HRT again.

Discussing with your doctor or healthcare provider before restarting HRT is vital since you’ll need to ensure that the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. Some risks due to HRT include conditions related to heart disease and breast cancer.

But overall, the risks of HRT are very low, and you can stop the therapy in a slow, comfortable, and safe way.

RELATED: New Findings on the Safety of Short-term Testosterone Replacement Therapy Discussed


How Long Does It Take for HRT to Leave Your System?

It can be challenging to know precisely when to discontinue HRT.

It’s because the therapy doesn’t take much time to leave your system and causes the side effects of stopping HRT suddenly. That’s why you need to take estrogen frequently to maintain the beneficial effects during the treatment.

However, it’s highly recommended that you consider when to discontinue HRT before starting it.

Why? Every drug or therapy has side effects that you don’t want to have. And so does HRT.

As mentioned above, HRT may increase the risks of heart disease and breast cancer if taken in the long term. So the lower dose and shorter the duration of the HRT, the less chance you’ll experience the side effects.

If any of the following apply, it may be time to reduce your dose or begin weaning off HRT:

  • Your menopausal symptoms are starting to disappear
  • You’ve been using HRT for at least five years
  • You are approaching the age of 60
  • You’ve been in menopause for nearly a decade


RELATED: Key Points of the North American Association Society (NAMS) Position Statement on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for Women


Bottom Line: Can You Take HRT for the Rest of Your Life?

HRT is not designed to be a permanent therapy.

The average duration of HRT is less than five years. Moreover, no report claims HRT can be taken as a life-long practice.

However, many women are taking HRT for up to 7 years. The main reason is that HRT is helping them control the menopausal symptoms, and they know those sources of annoyance will come back if the therapy is discontinued.

With that said, whether you want to take HRT in the long term is an individual decision. Your healthcare provider can assist you in deciding to begin lowering your dose or stopping HRT completely.

If you consider reducing or discontinuing HRT, consider using natural or over-the-counter treatments for menopausal symptoms. Dietary changes, supplements, and exercise are examples of these. In addition, some non-hormonal medications can also help with menopausal symptoms.

In conclusion, the side effects of stopping HRT suddenly include the recurrence of the menopausal symptoms you used to have before starting the therapy.

While the decision to stop HRT is totally on you, always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to weigh up the risks and benefits.


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