Why Some Women Choose MHT Alternatives
Hormone therapy is only one way to deal with menopausal symptoms. As the risks and benefits of hormone therapy are discovered, women want to understand all the alternatives for making this transition a comfortable and healthy one.
Women Want Choices
Medical complications aren't the only issue that might send a woman in search of an alternative to MHT. Women have many reasons for choosing alternatives to hormones, including the following:
Troublesome side effects of MHT. Many women who begin MHT decide for themselves to discontinue its use, citing progestin-related side effects including vaginal bleeding, breast tenderness, bloating, depression, and irritability.
Fear of an increased risk of cancer. Research seems to indicate that MHT can increase the risk of estrogen-sensitive breast cancers. If a woman has a personal or family history of breast cancer, she may want to avoid even the small chance of increasing her risk.
Objection to the “medicalization” of a natural process. Many women see menopause, like puberty, to be a normal, anticipated stage of physical development, and therefore want to approach it with as little medical intervention as possible. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that nearly half of American women surveyed considered menopause a natural process that doesn't require medical management. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports dissemination of information “that emphasizes menopause as a normal, healthy phase of women's lives and promotes it demedicalization.”
Each individual must educate herself about all treatment options and then work closely with a trusted health care professional to make this highly personal choice. Take advantage of the benefits of scientific advancements and research that are available for improving the quality of your life.
Other reasons may be factors in discouraging women from using MHT. Many women haven't the funds for ongoing medical therapy and are uninsured or underinsured, and therefore can't afford it. These women face multiple challenges in finding affordable alternatives to MHT, since many alternative treatments are also costly, and are even less likely to be covered by insurance. Some women may choose to avoid any kind of medical treatment as a result of religious or philosophical beliefs. For these women, nonmedical alternatives to MHT offer acceptable options for maintaining physical and emotional health during the transition through menopause.
Alternative therapies can be expensive. One survey found that the average vitamin/mineral/nutritional menopause symptom treatment costs about $2.00 per tablet — essentially the same as the cost of the usual dose of MHT.
Remember the Medical Impacts of Menopause
If you choose not to take MHT for either medical or personal reasons, you need to adopt other means of protecting your bones, brain, skin, and heart as you age. Any treatment option you choose must be part of a balanced, lifelong program of healthy living. Diet, exercise, regular medical checkups, and an active, engaged lifestyle are critical to preserving your ongoing health — through menopause and beyond.
Don't look to any one source — especially popular consumer magazines or blogs on the Internet — for information about menopause.
Check the Resources section (Appendix C) for other sources of sound information. Talk to your health care provider and other health care professionals to get second — even third — opinions.