Hormone replacement therapy (also called simply “hormone therapy”) is one of the most effective treatments out there to help ease menopause symptoms. Most often, the therapy involves taking a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
But scientists are also discovering the benefits of progesterone after menopause without the use of estrogen. If you’re wondering how progesterone for menopause might help with your symptoms, read on.
In this article: 📝
- What’s the purpose of hormone replacement therapy?
- What are the different types of hormone replacement therapy?
- What are the benefits of taking progesterone after menopause?
- What else should you know about hormone replacement therapy?
- Benefits of progesterone after menopause: The last word
What’s the purpose of hormone replacement therapy?
During perimenopause, your body starts to produce less and less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These are the chemical messengers sent out by your ovaries to keep your menstrual cycle on track and encourage your body to support a pregnancy.
But they have other important roles, too:
- Estrogen helps keep cholesterol in check and your heart healthy. It also has an impact on bone strength and protects the health of your vagina.
- Progesterone helps to regulate blood pressure, improves your mood, and helps you sleep.
With lower levels of these hormones, then, you can start to experience various menopause symptoms, including:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleeplessness and fatigue
- Vaginal dryness, leading to painful sex
- Changes to your mood
- Weight gain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
For some women, these symptoms ease off after menopause—that is, 12 months after your last period. But for others they can hang around for a long time. And that’s where hormone replacement therapy comes in.
Topping up your estrogen and/or progesterone levels with a pill or a patch can help ease your symptoms, leaving you feeling happier and healthier.
What are the different types of hormone replacement therapy?
The most common types of hormone replacement therapy are:
- Estrogen (alone). If you don’t have a uterus, you might be prescribed estrogen therapy on its own, without progesterone.
- Estrogen and progesterone (combined). If you do have a uterus, you’re likely to be prescribed combined hormone therapy. That’s because taking estrogen on its own can increase your risk of developing uterine cancer. Once your periods stop, you’re no longer shedding the lining of your uterus (endometrium) each month. Because of this, estrogen treatment alone can result in an overgrowth of cells in your uterus, which can lead to cancer. But, if you add progesterone into the mix, this keeps the lining of your uterus thin and reduces the risk of cancer.
So, that’s one of the main benefits of progesterone after menopause—it makes hormone therapy with estrogen much safer.
But, scientists are also discovering that progesterone taken on its own may have a positive impact on certain menopause symptoms.
What are the benefits of taking progesterone after menopause?
Here are some of the possible benefits of progesterone for postmenopausal symptoms:
- Fewer hot flashes and night sweats. A 2012 study found that healthy women early in postmenopause who took progesterone experienced fewer hot flashes and night sweats. And when they did experience them, they were less intense.
- Improved sleep. Why take progesterone at night? Well, a 2018 study found that 300mg of progesterone taken at bedtime led to deeper sleep and fewer night sweats. A win–win situation.
- A sharper mind. Brain fog is a menopause symptom that many women struggle with, and it’s possible that progesterone could help with this. One 2015 study, for example, found that progesterone improved the participants’ visual and verbal memory. But other studies haven’t had the same results. The jury’s still out on this one.
Does progesterone help with weight loss after menopause?
If you’re experiencing weight gain connected to menopause, it’s possible that combined hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) could help you to manage this.
But, usually, healthcare providers won’t prescribe hormone therapy for weight gain alone, because it does come with some health risks (more on this below). It’s more likely that you’ll be prescribed it if you have a number of menopause symptoms that are difficult to cope with.
If weight gain is your only symptom, your healthcare provider might suggest trying to manage it through lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise.
What else should you know about hormone replacement therapy?
Hormone therapy is commonly taken as a daily pill, but you might be offered other options, including:
- A patch, which sticks to your skin and releases the hormones over a few days.
- A shot, given by your healthcare provider every few weeks.
- An implant—a pellet that’s inserted beneath your skin, which is replaced every few months.
As with any medication, hormone therapy does come with some possible side effects. These include:
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention
- Tender breasts
- Vaginal bleeding
The therapy has also been linked to an increased risk of certain medical conditions, including blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer.
So it’s not recommended for women who are already at a higher risk for these conditions.
You can find out more about the side effects and risks of hormone therapy from the FDA here.
How long should I take progesterone after menopause?
There’s no particular time limit on how long you should continue hormone therapy (whether that’s estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of the two).
But, as with any medication, it’s usually recommended that you take the lowest dose for the shortest time possible to treat your symptoms.
If you take it over a number of years, each year your healthcare provider will discuss how the treatment is going for you, and whether your dose should be changed.
Plus, if you develop a new health condition while you’re on hormone therapy, your healthcare provider will check whether it’s still safe for you to continue hormone therapy.
Benefits of progesterone after menopause: The last word
If you go down the route of hormone therapy to ease your postmenopause symptoms, it’s most likely that you’ll be offered a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
But progesterone taken alone may also help with your symptoms, particularly hot flashes, night sweats, and sleeplessness.
So, do you need progesterone after menopause?
If you’re wondering whether this treatment will help you, the best thing to do is chat with your healthcare provider.
They’ll be able to work with you to set up a treatment plan that’s right for you.
📚 More on menopause:
Introducing, Peanut Menopause
What are the Signs Perimenopause is Ending?
What’s a Helpful Menopause Diet?
Do Natural Remedies for Menopause Help?
Essential Oils for Menopause: What Helps?
Tea for Menopause: Which to Choose and Why
Menopause and Constipation: What’s the Link?
Do Menopause Supplements Help?
Keto and Menopause: What to Know
How to Delay Menopause
What are the 34 Symptoms of Menopause?