Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Menopause Health Center

Font Size

Hormone Therapy for Menopause and Perimenopause

If You Have Vaginal Dryness

As you enter menopause, vaginal walls thin and become drier. This is one symptom that doesn’t settle down with time — if anything, it can grow worse. Sex may be painful, and you may become more prone to urinary tract infections because the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder, is more easily irritated.

Will hormones help? Estrogen works well to rejuvenate and lubricate vaginal walls. Unless you’re also having bad hot flashes, both the FDA and the North American Menopause Society advise that you try a product that you apply locally (but not Femring, which is a systemic product). Since minimal estrogen spills into the bloodstream, these products are a better option if you have health issues that rule out pills or patches. Choices include a vaginal ring worn for three months (Estring), cream (Estrace), or suppositories (Vagifem). You may also want to try hormone-free personal moisturizers (such as Replens), which you apply twice weekly, and in-the-moment lubricants (such as Astroglide and K-Y Silk-E) before or during sex.

If Your Sex Drive Is in a Dive

This is tricky territory, says Dr. Richardson. Yes, libido generally wanes with age. “But how much of that is estrogen related, how much is linked to other hormones, and how much stems from aging nerve and connective tissues, life stresses, or relationship issues isn’t clear,” she says. Lack of sleep, changing body image, and painful sex due to vaginal dryness also dash desire.

Will hormones help? In one small four-month study of healthy women between ages 45 and 55, HT boosted sexual thoughts and interest. But research has been mixed, and if a lack of estrogen isn’t the problem in your case, it’s unlikely to help. Try out a few quick fixes — lubricants, perhaps, or making some fantasies real (including the one where your partner does more housework). If these fail, talk to your doctor about specific issues and options.

If Your Memory Is Shot

Foggy brain? Fumbled words? Frantic hunts for cell phones and keys? “It takes a village to complete a thought,” says Kaye Denny, 53, who works alongside several women facing the same frustrations. The estrogen dips of menopause have been blamed for these cognitive challenges, but midlife brings other stresses — and often, an overloaded plate — that also mess with your mind.

Will hormones help? A multicenter study recently showed that hormone therapy did nothing for memory. One exception: If your brain fog is the result of patchy sleep due to hot flashes and sweats, then HT might be part of the solution.

If You Can’t Sleep

Waking up repeatedly because of hot flashes and sweats leaves many women dragging the next day, not to mention irritable and forgetful. But temperature-control problems may not be the only cause: Some people simply start to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during these years, even if they’re not getting overheated or drenched.

Will hormones help? HT does seem to help some women fall asleep faster, says Michelle P. Warren, M.D., medical director of the Center for Menopause, Hormonal Disorders and Women’s Health at Columbia University Medical Center. It may also help you stay asleep, Dr. Richardson says. But this research isn’t definitive. Upping daytime activity, dealing with stress, and practicing good sleep habits might do more to get you the rest you need. Lesley Bannatyne, 54, found exercising regularly helped cure her sleeplessness. “I had to make myself physically tired every single day,” she says. “When I started walking more and taking exercise classes, I really slept better.”

Today on WebMD

Menopause Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
senior woman
Article
 
Woman standing with fan in face
Video
senior woman taking a pill
Article
 
senior couple
Video
mature woman shopping for produce
Article
 
Alcohol Disrupting Your Sleep
Article
mature couple on boat
Article
 
mature woman tugging on her loose skin
Slideshow
senior woman wearing green hat
Article
 
mature woman
Article
supplements
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections