What are the Risks and Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Doctor (obstetrician, gynecologist or psychiatrist) consulting and diagnostic examining woman patient's obstetric - gynecological health in medical clinic or hospital healthcare service center

Over the past ten years, bioidenticals have become more and more popular, especially with women who are concerned about the safety of hormone therapy during and following menopause. In 2002, a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative was stopped when researchers realized hormone replacement therapy increased the risk for stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer. They also noticed other issues in postmenopausal women who were taking the hormones. This left women searching for other alternatives. 

Conventional hormone replacement therapy utilizes synthetic hormones or hormones that are animal based. These are slightly different from a woman’s natural hormones. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, on the other hand, are biochemically exactly the same as hormones made by a woman’s ovaries during reproductive years. 

While the FDA has approved the ingredients that make up bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, they have not approved the finished product. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) suggests that women who cannot tolerate FDA-approved therapies may tolerate bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. 

As far as the risks and benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy are concerned, more research needs to be done. While there are no studies confirming that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a “safer” alternative to conventional hormone replacement therapy, there are some known advantages. For example, conventional therapies may put women at a higher risk for breast cancer. 

It’s also possible that women taking bioidentical hormone replacement therapy experience less puffiness and less bleeding than those on some of the synthetic hormones. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (just like conventional therapies) does have risks. For example, women with a history of breast cancer or cardiovascular disease are not going to want to take bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. 

Bioidentical hormones may not be covered by all insurance although this may be changing in the near future. Many insurance companies will at least partially cover estradiol in patch form or oral form, some gels and lotions, and some forms of progesterone. Every insurance company is different, and you should always check the specific details of your plan. 

If you are considering bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, speak to your doctor and see if it might be a good option for you. You may find that it is the answer to all of the symptoms that you’re having.

Note: This is not medical advice and was not written by a physician. A doctor should be consulted before trying bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.