HRT Side Effects

The Side Effects & Risks Of Taking HRT

menopausal woman trt and hrt, cja balance ukLike any medicine, the hormones used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can cause side effects.  Any side effects usually improve over time, so it’s a good idea to persevere with treatment for at least 3 months if possible.

Here, CJA Balance look at the side effects of oestrogen and progestogen as well as the risks of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood clots and gaining weight. 

Your CJA Balance doctor is available to answer any questions or concerns you may have and to help if you have severe side effects or if they continue for longer than 3 months. 



Oestrogen Side Effects 

The main side effects of taking oestrogen include:

  • bloating
  • breast tenderness or swelling
  • swelling in other parts of the body
  • feeling sick
  • leg cramps
  • headaches
  • indigestion
  • vaginal bleeding

These side effects will often pass after a few weeks. To ease side effects, try:

  • taking your oestrogen dose with food, which may help feelings of sickness and indigestion
  • eating a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, which may reduce breast tenderness
  • doing regular exercise and stretching to help leg cramps

If side effects persist, we may recommend switching to a different way of taking oestrogen, changing the medicine you’re taking, or lowering your dose.

Progestogen Side Effects

The main side effects of taking progestogen include:

  • breast tenderness
  • swelling in other parts of the body
  • headaches or migraines
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • acne
  • tummy (abdominal) pain
  • back pain
  • vaginal bleeding

As with side effects of oestrogen, these will usually pass after a few weeks.  If they persist, your CJA Balance doctor may recommend switching to a different way of taking progestogen, changing the medicine you’re taking, or lowering your dose.

Breast Cancer Risks With HRT

Women who take HRT for more than a year have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never been on HRT. This increased risk of breast cancer is linked to all types of HRT with the exception of those using vaginal oestrogen.  If you take HRT for less than a year, there is no increased risk of breast cancer.

For women in their 40s and 50s who take HRT for five years there would be:

  • 1 extra case of breast cancer for every 200 women taking oestrogen-only HRT
  • 1 extra case of breast cancer for every 70 women taking cyclical HRT
  • 1 extra case for breast cancer every 50 women taking continuous HRT

It is believed that the number of extra cases doubles among women who take these types of HRT for 10 years or more.

Research shows that the increased risk of breast cancer falls after you stop taking HRT, but some increased risk remains for more than 10 years compared to women who have never used HRT.

Ovarian Cancer & HRT

It is unclear whether taking HRT increases your risk of ovarian cancer as the results are conflicting.  However, a recent study found that there is likely to be only one extra case of ovarian cancer per 1,000 women taking HRT for five years so the risks are small.  Any increased risk of ovarian cancer is thought to decrease once you stop taking HRT.

The Risk Of Blood Clots While On HRT

According to the NHS, the risk of developing a blood clot is two to four times higher for women who take HRT tablets – but the risk is still very low.  There is no increased risk of blood clots from HRT patches or gels.  For every 1000 women taking HRT tablets for 7.5 years, fewer than two are likely to develop a blood clot as a result.  Blood clots can be life threatening if not dealt with quickly. 

Weight Gain & HRT

Many women believe that taking HRT will make them put on weight, but there’s no evidence to support this claim.  You may gain some weight during the menopause, but this often happens regardless of whether you take HRT.  Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet should help you to lose any unwanted weight.

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