Pros and Cons for Perimenopausal Women
This article originally appeared in Health Matters, a health
information newsletter published by Clinton Hospital for members of the Greater
For many women, the months or years leading up to menopause can be a roller
coaster ride laden with hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. During
the usual five-year window of transition to menopause, known as perimenopause, a
woman's hormone levels can become irregular and unpredictable, leaving her to
feel frustrated and uncomfortable as her body struggles to adjust. And while
some women go through perimenopause with little disruption to their daily lives,
others bear the burden of uncomfortable symptoms that can unexpectedly interrupt
their days and nights, leaving them desperate for relief.
For many women looking for relief, hormone therapy may be considered to
suppress the sometimes aggravating symptoms of menopause. "The decision to start
hormone therapy should be arrived at jointly by the patient and her physician,"
said Valerie Moreland, MD, family physician. "Not every woman is a candidate for
this form of medical intervention. Therefore, before beginning hormone therapy,
the patient and her physician should discuss individual risks and benefits, the
patient's current health and medical history, as well as her family's medical
Hormone therapy is a temporary treatment that replenishes a woman's estrogen
and sometimes progesterone levels to help her body regain a normal hormone
balance, thus alleviating perimenopausal symptoms. "For the treatment to be most
effective with the least amount of risk, a patient should be given the lowest
dose of hormones for the shortest time possible, and her condition should be
reassessed every six months," said Dr. Moreland. "A woman should only receive
hormone therapy if she is experiencing unbearable perimenopausal symptoms, has
no prior health problems that the treatment could make worse, or is at a great
risk for developing osteoporosis."
While protection against osteoporosis is an additional benefit of the
treatment, risks associated with hormone therapy may include stroke, blood clot,
heart attack or breast cancer. According to Dr. Moreland, under no circumstances
should a woman take hormone therapy if she is experiencing vaginal bleeding that
is not normal or if her medical history includes breast cancer, liver disease,
heart disease, uterine cancer, a history of blood clots or some forms of
elevated cholesterol, among other considerations.
Other prescription medications to help curb hot flashes are available to
women who do not want or are not candidates for traditional hormone therapy, as
well as alternative or
complementary medicine treatments using natural
products. Dr. Moreland encourages women to talk to their health care provider
individually about the best form of treatment for them.
Valerie Moreland, MD, is on the medical staff at Clinton Hospital and is
a UMass Memorial Medical Group physician at Sterling Family Medicine, 50
Leominster Road, Sterling. She is currently accepting new patients. To make an
appointment, call 978-422-5082.