Bioidentical hormones are, taken literally, a hormonal supplement that is chemically the same as the hormones our ovaries make for us in our youth. Usually the phrase refers to using combinations of estrogen (there are 3 different subtypes of estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone to supplement a woman’s menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms. Interestingly, there are both pharmaceutical and compounded options for these hormones.
From the pharmaceutical companies, we find various delivery forms of estradiol including creams, patches, pills, and gels. There are a couple of pharmaceutical versions of progesterone also that can be taken as a pill or cream. Mostly though, when we hear the phrase “BHRT” we think of compounding pharmacies that mix up various combinations of the three hormones listed above. The benefits of using bio-identical hormones come in the form of customization. Dosages can be tweaked and can include different hormones to achieve different goals.
Sometimes, we see certain symptoms that are treated more effectively with bio-identical hormones. For example, bio-identical progesterone often seems to help women sleep better ( a common problem in menopause is insomnia) than pharmaceutical “progestins” which are similar but not quite the same. However, those same pharmaceutical “progestins” help certain uterine bleeding problems more effectively than the bio-identical “progesterone” does.
The risks with bio-identical hormones should really be considered the same as the risks of regular pharmaceutical hormones including increased risk of breast cancer and blood clots which can result in stroke or heart disease. The most important part of making decisions about hormone therapy is considering each individual’s risk factors and quality of life goals.
Our group of obstetricians and gynecologists at Women’s Specialists of Plano desires nothing more than to treat every woman as an individual. It is important to choose a doctor who is familiar with the full spectrum of hormone therapy so that all options can be discussed. Our group is very familiar with compounding options and the full range of pharmaceutical options to help each woman make the most informed decision for her quality of life.