Body identical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the recommended menopause treatment in the United Kingdom. It's the lowest risk, and most well regulated form of HRT. We briefly explain what it is, how it's different and what to look out for when you get your prescription.
Recap: What is Hormone Replacement therapy (HRT)?
HRT is when you take a form of medication to replace your body's natural hormones. This is because our female hormones - oestrogen and progesterone - drop during perimenopause and menopause. This drop causes many women to have menopause symptoms.
What is body identical HRT
Body identical HRT has the same chemical structure as the hormones in your body. That means that when you take it, you're actually topping up your own hormones. Body identical HRT is regulated medication that can be prescribed privately or on the NHS.
For oestrogen: almost all forms of HRT prescribed in the United Kingdom are now body identical estrogen. Look out for the term estradiol (often made from the yam plant).
For progesterone: the only body identical progesterone is a tablet called Utrogestan. It's an oral treatment, but it can also be taken vaginally. Look out for the term micronised progesterone. The other way to get body identical progesterone is through the mirena coil, which releases micronised progesterone into the cervix and surrounding area.
Bio-identical hormones, sometimes called compounded HRT, are are precise duplicates of hormones that are made in the human ovary, adrenal and thyroid. The estrogen bio-identical hormones (E1,E2,E3) are usually compounded with some progesterone and testosterone and/or DHEA.
Bio-identical hormones are not regulated medications, so they need to be approached with some caution. Bio-identical HRT is not available on the NHS, and not all private menopause clinics will prescribe it.
What are the brands of body identical HRT?
- Sandrena gel
- Estradot patches
- Elleste Solo patches
Is Body Identical HRT available on the NHS?
Yes - Body Identical HRT is available on the NHS. However, it cannot be guaranteed that this will be the first type of HRT that will be offered to you. You need to ask for it specifically to ensure that you get it.
Bio-Identical HRT, however, is not available on the NHS, as they are not regulated. You would need to go to a private clinic in order to get this form of HRT.
What are the side effects of Body Identical HRT?
Along with the many benefits of HRT, all medications have some potential side effects, but not all women will get side effects. Body identical HRT has fewer side effects than more synthetic, or older, versions of HRT. With body identical HRT the side effects should subside within 3 months, if they do not then your dose might need to be altered. Some side effects of hormonal medications include:
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Weight gain