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What is HRT and what to do if you’re worried about HRT shortgages

Our Women’s Health Lead and Menopause doctor, Dr Verity Biggs, gives an explanation of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), what it is and when it should be used. She then gives some suggestions on what to do if you’re worried about the availability of your HRT products.

Dr Verity Biggs
Dr Verity BiggsWomen's Health and Menopause Lead

Dr Verity Biggs is a Women’s health specialist and our female health lead.

You can find out more about Dr Biggs by viewing her latest articles and biography .

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

Hormone replacement therapy is there to replace the reduced levels of hormones which are causing menopausal symptoms.  Often it can be trial and error getting the right dose to resolve your symptoms.  HRT consists of oestrogen (to treat your symptoms) and progesterone (to protect the lining of your womb and to control bleeding).

How do I apply/take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

HRT can be given in many forms, oral tablets containing both hormones, transdermal oestrogen in the form of gels, patches and spray.  The Progesterone element can be combined in the patch or tablet, but also has a Mirena coil or in a capsule called Utrogestan.

How does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) help me?

HRT started soon after or during menopause is known to continue the protective benefits that women normally have before menopause, namely cardiovascular effects, bone health, brain health and diabetes.  You may have heard of the terms body identical and bio-identical HRT.  Body identical is the HRT routinely prescribed in the UK on the NHS or privately.  Bio-identical HRT has been used in USA for many years and is available at some private clinics only, but in the UK it is not regulated as safety checks and trials here have not been carried out.

I’m worried that my HRT perscription isn’t available.

There has been widespread media coverage of HRT shortages nationally.  The Government have now appointed a HRT Tsar and today we were advised to limit prescribing to 3 months to ensure fair distribution of products.  In general this isn’t do to manufacturing issues, but instead due to increased prescribing, and more recently HRT prescriptions have gone up by 38% and more.  Hopefully this will be sorted out soon, but if you are experiencing problems, keep trying firstly and try other chemists.

Alternative products are available and so you may have to temporarily change to another whilst you are waiting for your usual prescription to become available.

Conversion charts are available to help your surgery get the right dose for you:

Estradiol-approximate equivalent doses

Ultra low

Low

Medium

High

Oral

0.5mg

1.0mg

2.0mg

3.0mg

Patch

Half25

25

50

75-100

Gel-pump

½ pump

1 pump

2 pumps

3-4 pumps

Gel-sachet

½ x 0.5mg sachet-0.25mg

0.5mg

1mg

1.5-2mg

Spray

1 spray

2 sprays

3 sprays

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There is no right and wrong with your HRT regime but it needs to suit your lifestyle and be practical for you and ultimately safe!

Would you like to speak to a menopause specialist?

We hope the information above is helpful, but if you’d like to speak to a specialist about your symptoms, or any other aspect of menopause or hormone replacement therapy, then book an appointment now with our menopause team, led by Dr Verity Biggs, here. Our doctors specialise in menopause diagnosis and treatment.  We can help you find the best HRT treatment to suit you as well as navigate the difficulties in supply experienced by so many menopausal women across the UK.

Our consultations can be face to face or online, whichever’s more convenient for you.