Did you know that you can survive well without hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? Even if you don’t have any ovaries
By Lise Cloutier-Steele
After weaning myself off hrt, very gradually since December 2003, it’s been almost two years now since I’ve been completely free of hormone supplementation. Although I had my doubts about succeeding at this, because I have no ovaries, I finally did it.
Following a hysterectomy and ovary removal procedure in 1991, I tried various types of hormone therapies. None was helpful at controlling the nastier symptoms of surgical menopause until I tried bio-identical hormones in June of 1999.
The bio-identical combination therapy of progesterone and tri-estrogens was by far the most effective at controlling the hot flashes and night sweats, and keeping my moods in check. Despite this therapy’s effectiveness, however, and as the case with the more traditional forms of hrt, pharmaceutical chemists and medical experts are warning women against long term use of this product as well.
Of course, the Women’s Health Initiatives’ 2002 study on combined hrt, and the results of its 2004 study into the risks and benefits of estrogen only replacement therapy (ert), also prompted me to try doing without.
What to do about hot flashes
Avoiding stress is crucial to decreasing the frequency and the intensity of hot flashes. I realize that it’s hard to achieve a stress-free existence at all times, but once I identified the triggers that brought on stress and strong emotions, I was on my way. I revisit this strategy on a daily basis, reminding myself of the hot result if I don’t remain calm.
Rather than resist the flush, I ride it out. I tell myself that it will be over in a few minutes, and that my accelerated heart rate will be back to normal just as quickly.
Deep abdominal breathing works wonders at diminishing the intensity of the flush.
I’ve been wearing light clothing all year round since I underwent the hysterectomy, but cotton material helps me stay the coolest.
I avoid spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine as much as I can.
I exercise daily, but never within 3 hours of my bedtime.
Controlling Night Sweats
My evenings at home are all about rest and relaxation. Candles and listening to classical or jazz music create the perfectly peaceful atmosphere.
An extra long soak in the tub is equally relaxing.
Before I go to bed, I lower the thermostat or open my bedroom window if it’s cool.
A large fan on the floor by the side of my bed serves me well.
I don’t drink hot drinks like tea or coffee in the evening. If you can’t avoid these completely, try doing without after dinner or at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
I don’t smoke, but those who do can reduce the frequency and intensity of night sweats by avoiding smoking 3 hours before bedtime. Quitting altogether would be more beneficial, but I know that this is easier said than done.
When I implemented these strategies in the early stages of my weaning off process, my hot flash and night sweat frequency and intensity decreased by 50%. These days, I may experience just one or two mild hot flashes per day, and rarely is my sleep disrupted by a night sweat.
I’m free at last, and I don’t regret opting for quantity of life with a few minor discomforts without having to worry about the risks associated with hrt.
Lise Cloutier-Steele is the author of Misinformed Consent – Women’s Stories about Unnecessary Hysterectomy, Next Decade, Inc., NJ, 2003. For helpful information on hysterectomy, ovary removal and hrt, visit her web site at www.hysterectomyfacts.com.
Read another article by Lise Cloutier-Steele:
Did you know that hysterectomy can kill your joy of sex?