Hormone Replacement Therapy:

Uses, types, risks, & benefits

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What is HRT?

Hormone fluctuations are part of every woman’s life; from puberty to menopause, hormones spike and wane. As women enter the menopause transition in their late 30s and early 40s, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone begin to steadily decline, creating challenging symptoms. There are over 100 symptoms associated with declining hormones in the menopause transition, some of the most common including hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a prescription treatment used to boost hormone levels, by replenishing the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that diminish over time. At Winona, we only use plant-based, bioidentical hormones that are identical in molecular structure to those made naturally in your body. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by menopause symptoms, you’re not alone. Winona’s board-certified physicians are available to listen to your concerns and design a personalized HRT plan just for you.

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How does hormone therapy work for menopausal women?

We know that every woman’s experience with the menopause transition is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. HRT is a comprehensive solution, because it’s driven specifically by your symptom profile. Winona physicians use each patient’s symptoms to determine both the treatment plan and dosages, meaning it’s tailored to your specific needs. HRT can help manage the following symptoms, among many others:

  • Hot FlashesHot Flashes
  • Night SweatsNight Sweats
  • Mood SwingsMood Swings
  • Brain FogBrain Fog
  • Vaginal DrynessVaginal Dryness
  • Low LibidoLow Libido
  • Urinary IncontinenceUrinary Incontinence
  • PalpitationsPalpitations
Replacing these hormones, with a doctor-supervised supplement program, can bring symptom relief and a renewed sense of vibrancy and energy .
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Types of HRT


Estrogen is what most people think of as the primary female hormone, and it plays a role in many different systems of the body. When estrogen decreases and begins to create symptoms, your doctor may suggest estrogen therapy to help replace it. If you have had your uterus removed, your doctor may prescribe estrogen alone, whereas with a uterus, it’s necessary to take estrogen and progesterone in tandem.

The primary use of estrogen therapy is to treat menopause symptoms that include vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) and urogenital atrophy (itching, dryness, and irritation). Estrogen can be prescribed orally for systemic vasomotor relief and vaginally for genital symptoms.

Treatment Types
  • Body

  • Vaginal

  • Oral

  • Patch


Progesterone is another female sex hormone that is produced in the ovaries. Progesterone therapy is useful to replenish this hormone as it declines in the menopause transition. While taking progesterone does help regulate the growth of uterine cells which can occur with estrogen therapy, it can also address symptoms in the following ways:

  • Aiding restful sleep

  • Alleviating anxiety and stress

  • Improving mood

  • Supporting memory

  • Curbing hot flashes

Treatment Types
  • Body

  • Oral


Testosterone is typically thought to be a hormone unique to men, but women also produce - and need - testosterone. Like estrogen and progesterone, testosterone also decreases during menopause, causing symptoms like low libido. Winona prescribes DHEA to gently raise testosterone levels. Additional symptoms of low testosterone for women can include the following:

  • Brain fog

  • Painful sex

  • Fatigue

  • Weight gain

Treatment Types
  • Oral


Combination therapy consists of a blend of estrogen and progesterone, and it’s a common route for women prescribed HRT for menopause symptoms. If a woman with a uterus uses estrogen alone, it can cause an overgrowth of cells in the uterus, which may lead to cancer. However, the addition of progesterone reduces this risk by thinning the endometrium cells. Progesterone keeps estrogen in check, as part of this type of HRT. If a woman has had her uterus removed, combination HRT is not always necessary. A treatment plan can also include DHEA for testosterone, if a physician assesses that it would be helpful.

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Benefits of HRT

HRT has many overall health benefits that are not specifically tied to any one symptom. The decline of hormones can impact age-related diseases, and if HRT is introduced near the onset of menopause, it can lower the risk of certain health issues. HRT has been shown to reduce the risk of the following:

  • Osteoporosis and fractures - HRT preserves bone mineral density.

  • Alzheimer’s disease, in certain cases.

  • Diabetes - A scientific study demonstrated HRT reduced the incidence of diabetes by 35%.

  • Colorectal cancer - by as much as 63%, after considering other risk factors.

  • Cardiovascular disease - Estrogen has a beneficial effect on blood vessel function and plaque formation, offering overall protection from some cardiovascular issues.

In addition to reduced risk of certain conditions, estrogen replacement therapy can also help regulate cholesterol levels, which tend to trend negatively after menopause. According to some studies, HRT has also demonstrated the capacity to maintain and enhance muscle mass, strength, and connective tissue.

Health Risks Associated with Hormone Therapy

As with any medication, there are certain risks involved in taking HRT. A discussion with your physician can determine whether you are a good candidate and if the benefits would outweigh the risks. If you have a history of heart disease or blood clots, you and your doctor may decide against HRT. Because each person has a different medical and genetic history, the American Heart Association recommends an individualized risk assessment for women considering HRT. The following risk factors have been identified in some patients:

  • Heart disease, which can include risk of heart attack

  • Increased risk of blood clots and stroke, especially during the first year of use - this risk is increased in patients who have high blood pressure and smoke.

  • Increased risk of breast cancer with long-term use of HRT

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Bioidentical HRT

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy uses hormones derived and processed from plants that are chemically identical to the hormones that the body naturally produces. The plant chemicals go through an additional process called micronization, which makes the medication more readily absorbed by the body. These bioidentical hormones are functionally indistinguishable from the body’s hormones, so they tend to be accompanied by fewer side effects and risks. Winona physicians only prescribe our own bioidentical HRT that is sourced from FDA-approved ingredients and has shown to be effective and reliable for symptom relief. Bioidentical HRT can be administered as creams, gels, injections, patches, or oral tablets; through Winona, you have access to oral tablets, creams, and patches.

What are Bioidentical Hormones?

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Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy for a Better, Safer Future!

If you’re on your menopause journey, and your quality of life is being impacted by symptoms, now is the time to obtain a medical assessment and start on a treatment plan. For appropriately-screened patients, HRT is a safe intervention for menopausal symptoms and preventive care for long-term health. Winona’s board-certified physicians are available to offer expertise and personalized recommendations.

At Winona, we embrace that no two women are the same, and each woman’s experience with menopause is different. That’s why our doctors customize treatment plans based on your unique needs and concerns. Schedule a free consultation today, and get started on the path to health and wellness. Let us support you to take control of your symptoms and make the second half of your life even better than the first!

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