Bioidentical hormones are made in a laboratory. They are based on compounds found in plants (usually soybeans or wild yams).
After the plant-based hormone is processed, its structure is said to be identical to the estrogen, progesterone, or androgen hormone your body makes. (Well-designed studies have yet to prove this theory.1) A compounding pharmacist can offer you a custom-made formulation in one of many forms. You might get a capsule, a skin cream or gel, a tablet to dissolve under your tongue, a suppository, or a nose spray. Some commonly prescribed estrogens and progesterones are bioidenticals, such as Estrace (estradiol). There's a major difference between custom-made formulations and commercial products. Commercial products are regulated and tested for purity and potency, but compounding pharmacies are not.2
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Just like synthetic hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones are prescribed to increase or stabilize a woman's hormone levels. This is most often done during perimenopause, when hormone levels change unpredictably. It's also done after menopause, when the hormones drop to low levels.