Bioidentical Hormone Therapy: Clarifying the Misconceptions
By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on December 10, 2011 • Updated March 04, 2023
Is There A Risk To Taking Hormone Therapy?
Female hormones seem to always be a hot topic in the news. Whether the topic is about the risks of newer hormonal contraceptives, the media message always seems to blare that the risks of any hormone are not acceptable for women. This is just not true. Every medication, prescription, as well as "over the counter" medicine has risks. Not treating certain medical conditions also has risks - sometimes major risks!
The bottom line is that with any hormone, there is a rare risk of a blood clot. This is true for the birth control pill, standard menopausal hormone therapy or compounded, so-called "bioidentical hormone therapy." Fortunately, for most women this is not an issue. However, for a small fraction of women, their blood coagulation system becomes "thicker" with female hormones.
Another important risk with menopausal hormone therapy (especially unregulated, compounded hormone therapy) is the risk of uterine cancer if estrogen is used alone without adequate PROgesterone to PROtect the uterus. Smearing on "wild yam cream" or "natural progesterone" to the skin just won't cut it, ladies.
Hormone Therapy: Get Regulated Prescriptions
Certainly, women who want bioidentical female hormones, who need hormone therapy, can get regulated prescriptions with the right amount of progesterone to protect the uterus. However, while one can get a physiologic and pharmacologic effect from rubbing estrogen cream on the skin, one can not with progesterone cream to the skin. Hormones are potent, hormones are effective, hormones can be misunderstood and misused. Be sure to see your women's health physician before starting any therapy.
Not all women respond the same way to hormones, just like we all don't look the same with various haircuts and colors. You owe it to yourself to get the facts, from a true hormone expert, not from media sound-bites.
Be Strong, Be Healthy, and Be in Charge!
-Holly L. Thacker, MD
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research including menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.
- Surviving Menopause Series: Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
- Birth Control Pills and Acne
- Menopause and Nutrition