If you are taking hormone replacement therapy, you may be wondering, “How long do I need to be taking this?” “Will I be on this the rest of my life?” “When is a safe time for me to stop taking it?” The answers to these questions are different for everybody because hormone replacement therapy is not a one-size-fits-all medication. Every woman is different, and we prescribe medication on a case-by-case basis.
However, generally speaking, you will want to continue taking your supplemental estrogen as long as you’d like to continue receiving benefits. When you stop taking estrogen, your levels will naturally decline quite rapidly, and you will begin to experience symptoms of menopause. The amount and severity of symptoms is different for every woman, but general symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, vaginal dryness, mood swings, etc.
In addition to the physical changes that will happen, you will no longer be receiving the protective effects of estrogen. Some studies have suggested that estrogen helps keep a woman’s arteries flexible and can help protect against atherosclerosis, which is a leading cause of coronary heart disease. Estrogen also plays a role in the prevention of osteoporosis by assisting with the absorption of calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium. Without estrogen, risk of bone density loss is increased as well as the risk of osteoporosis, bone breaks, and fractures.
Estrogen is safe for long term use, and experts are beginning to realize that bio-identical sources do not have the same risks as the estrogen pills your mother or grandmother used to take. However, as the years go by your estrogen dose will need to be adjusted. The amount you need when you’re 45 is different from the amount you’ll need at 60, so make sure you’re coming in every year to talk about changes.