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
Not all women experience symptoms prior to or following menopause, which is defined as the time when a woman has naturally ceased having menstrual periods for one year. If menopausal symptoms occur, they may include hot flashes, night sweats, pain during intercourse due to vaginal dryness, and increased anxiety or irritability.
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.